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Nobuatsu Aoki

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The fourth installment of Suzuki’s four-part video series (part 1, part 2, & part 3 here) on its MotoGP program is out, and this time around the Japanese OEM is talking about the relentless perils of testing, testing, and more testing (no surprises here). One of Suzuki’s biggest hurdles though, as it gets ready for the 2015 season, is switching from its Mitsubishi electronics system, to the spec-ecu being built by Magneti Marelli for Dorna.

The process is more difficult than it sounds. Not only does Suzuki have to do the general development necessary to get the most out of the Suzuki XRH-1 GP prototype (more photos here, too), but then once complete, Suzuki must port those settings to the Magneti Marelli unit. Meanwhile test riders Randy de Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki are constantly finding things to improve with the race bike, which can require further changes to the ECU software.

No one ever said it was easy to race in the premier class of motorcycle racing, and Suzuki’s efforts prove that point. With the MotoGP proving itself to be an ever-changing landscape for rules and regulations, Suzuki also faces a very slim window to use the bike that they are currently developing. Thus in our minds, their place as the 2015 underdogs has already been solidified well ahead of their debut. Good luck to all of them.

Getting on the track one out of the two planned days at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit last week (Day One was hampered by rain), Suzuki Racing got some more time on the track with its MotoGP race bike. With test rider Randy de Puniet on the track, the Frenchman posted a 1’48:60 as his best lap time of the day, about the same pace as his previous outings in Japan, though on par with the less grippy post-rain conditions. MotoGP fans will be pleased to hear that Suzuki Racing has been getting pressure from Dorna to enter as many wild card races as possible in 2014, which will help bolster the grid at a select number of events. There are 47 high-resolution photos waiting for you after the jump.

Seeing the return of American racing legend Kevin Schwantz to FIM road racing, the 2013 Coca-Cola Zero Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race was certainly one to remember. While the return of Schwantz overshadowed many of the other big names in the sport that competed in the event, not to mention the former World Champion’s own teammates: Noriyuki Haga & Yukio Kagayama. For all the postulation that the 49-year-old was over the hill for the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Texan held his own on the Kagayama Suzuki, and managed to keep Team Kagayama in the podium hunt, especially as other top teams succumbed to the rigors of endurance racing.

Suzuki broke some hearts by announcing that the company’s MotoGP team would not return to the premier class until 2015, instead of 2014 as was rumored. Telling perspective riders last week about the decision (so they could make alternate plans for next season), Suzuki was still at the Circuit de Catalunya for MotoGP’s post-race test, joining Yamaha Racing (which elected not to go to the rain-sodden Motorland Aragon circuit), Ducati Corse, and a bevy of satellite and private teams. Shaking down its inline-four GP race bike, codenamed the Suzuki XRH-1, Nobuatsu Aoki was first-up on the machine. But the day’s real work was done by Randy de Puniet, who put in an impressive 1’42.676 lap time near the end of the day.

Suzuki’s MotoGP return is drawing closer. Speaking to Crash.net’s Peter McLaren, Suzuki test rider Nobuatsu Aoki confirmed that testing on the brand new bike – an inline-four with a big-bang firing order – was progressing well and that the bike would make its first public outing at the post-race test at Barcelona, after the MotoGP round there in mid-June. Aoki himself would be riding at the test, he said, alongside ‘one European rider’. That is widely expected to be Randy de Puniet, though Aoki refused to name the rider.

Making some space in his collection, Kenny Roberts Sr. has put four race bikes from the Team KR racing heritage up on the auction block, two of which are KR Proton GP machines. The first bike up for grabs is a KR Proton KR3 (above) that was ridden by Nobuatsu Aoki, which raced in the 2001 500GP Championship and features a two-stroke V3 motor. Also offering a MotoGP-era four-stroke machine, King Kenny has added his KR Proton KRV5 XM2 (below), which was ridden by his youngest son, Kurtis Roberts, in the 2004 MotoGP Championship, and features a proprietary five-cylinder motor.