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Suzuki GSV-R

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Suzuki’s return to MotoGP takes another step closer to being realized this week. Frenchman Randy de Puniet is flying to Japan today to test Suzuki’s inline four MotoGP machine at Motegi, as part of the testing program to develop the bike ready for its return in 2014.

In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, De Puniet said he would be departing on Monday. “We leave tomorrow to go to Japan to test at Motegi with Suzuki,” he told MotoGP.com. “It will be a good experience for me, and I hope to do a great job.” After testing at Motegi, De Puniet will fly back to Europe to take part in the next round of MotoGP with the Power Electronics Aspar team at Mugello, where he will ride the team’s Aprilia ART machine.

News that Suzuki plans on returning to the MotoGP Championship in 2014 should be old information for dedicated Asphalt & Rubber readers, and the Japanese company’s inline-four race bike was already spotted doing test laps last year by the eager eyes at Cycle World. Well the American print-mag has another set of eyebrow-raising high-quality photos of the 2014 Suzuki GSV-R to mull over from the Motegi race track, along with some technical insights provided by the venerable Kevin Cameron.

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.

The eagle-eyed camera’s over at Cycle World have caught Suzuki conducting tests for its MotoGP project, and the early indications are that the Japanese brand has dropped its V4 motor configuration in favor of a more traditional transverse inline-four cylinder arrangement — at least for this present stage of testing. Cycle World’s sources say that while the cylinder configuration may be fairly standard, the 2014 Suzuki GSV-R is anything but your typical four-pot. Showing the makings of a crossplane crankshaft via the bike’s exhaust routing, it would seem Suzuki has taken a page out of Yamaha YZR-M1’s playbook, with rideablility being the name of the game.

Rizla Suzuki has announced that John Hopkins will return to MotoGP action for another race, riding again as wild card entry, this time at Sepang. The Malaysian GP will be Hopper’s third stint in MotoGP this season, as the Anglo-American filled-in for the injured Álvaro Bautista at the Spanish GP in Jerez and was entered as a wild card for the Czech GP, where he unfortunately injured his wrist in a crash during Free Practice.

Currently leading the British Superbike Championship with the Samsung Crescent Racing team, Hopper will be looking to button-up the BSB Championship next weekend at Brands Hatch. Making a remarkable showing during his rookie year in BSB, this wild card ride with Rizla Suzuki is surely a reward for Hopkins’ determination this season, which has seen him make an appearance in World Superbike, on-top of his extracurricular MotoGP activities.

Álvaro Bautista sported some new race livery this past weekend in Misano, as the Spanish rider donned a chrome paint scheme at the San Marino GP to help title sponsor Rizla hock some more cancer sticks. The “Micron” paint scheme, done by Troy Lee Designs, is one of the many ways the Rizla Suzuki team has tried to promote itself for its financial backers, with PR rides by John Hopkins and Elena Myers also filling the bill. While the Suzuki team has struggled in MotoGP the past few years, the more recent races this season have shown that Bautista and the Suzuki GSV-R are capable of mixing it up with the second-tier of riders (when the bike stays on the track of course).

Finishing most recently 6th and 8th, respectively at the Indianapolis and San Marino GPs, Bautista seems finally comfortable on the 800cc GSV-R. If rumors are true, Suzuki could very well continue with the 800cc package into the 2012 season, electing to mix things up with the larger displacement bikes from Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati (though, the displacement on some of those machines is surely not the full 1,000cc as well).

John Hopkins is a busy man with his duties to Crescent Racing. Not only is the Anglo-American riding as a wild card at World Superbike’s next round at Silverstone, but the former-MotoGP racer will also ride Álvaro Bautista’s back-up Suzuki GSV-R at the Czech GP in three weeks’ time (the same course where Hopkins secured a second place finish in 2007, his best-ever results in MotoGP).

The outing will be Hopper’s second cameo appearance in the teal blue colors of Rizla Suzuki this year, as he filled-in for Bautista at the Spanish GP in Jerez, after the factory rider broke his femur at the Qatar GP. Hopkins is currently second in the British Superbike Championship, in a season that many are tipping as a trial-point for Hopper’s return back to MotoGP.

In the press release announcing Álvaro Bautista’s intent to race in the Portuguese GP, the heading describes the Spaniard as having “true grit” during today’s Free Practice sessions at Estoril. Now normally with MotoGP press releases, these headings are a bit of hyperbole, but considering just over a month ago Bautista’s femur, the largest bone in the human body, was in two pieces, we’re inclined to agree that the Spanish rider has shown remarkable determination in getting back onto the saddle of the Suzuki GSV-R.

Initial estimates pegged Bautista’s return to be at Le Mans for the French GP, but hard work at his physical therapy sessions, and an obscene amount of time in a hyperbaric chamber have accelerated Bautista’s healing process. With today’s work in the Rizla Suzuki garage showing that he has the ability to ride on his leg just a mere 42 days after he broke it, the young GP rider has earned a lot of street cred in the MotoGP paddock.