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Suzuki XRH-1

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Testing alongside the rest of the MotoGP paddock, Suzuki Racing was present again at the Catalunya test, with Randy de Puniet once again turning laps on the Suzuki XRH-1. Now using the Magneti Marelli electronics, Suzuki has the long process of dialing-in the XRH-1’s full potential.

Also a priority at Catalunya was Suzuki’s more powerful iteration of its inline-four engine, which the Japanese OEM hoped would close its gap to the other OEMs. In the hands of Randy de Puniet, the Suzuki XRH-1 was 2.499 seconds off the pace of test-leader Marc Marquez, though that margin comes with an asterisk.

While the rest of the paddock has had since Friday to hone their machines and bodies to the Circuit de Catalunya, Suzuki and RdP did not have that luxury going into Monday’s test. One can also argue De Puniet’s pace to the other GP riders, as with all due respect to the Frechman, Marc Marquez he is not.

With a thousand variables at play (we can even question the validity of test times in general, as teams are testing not qualifying/racing), it is easy to make excuses for RdP and Suzuki as to why the gap remains so far from the other factories, but the end result is that the XRH-1 is a tough character to judge. That makes Suzuki’s return to the GP paddock a bit of a wild card.

With Both of Ducati Corse’s riders praying for a miracle, or a better option, Suzuki could be that salvation. One also has to consider Dani Pedrosa’s rumored $8 million price tag, and the bevy of other contracts that expire at the end of the season. Suzuki’s impending presence is a considerable factor in MotoGP’s game of musical chairs..

Being a difficult factor to judge though has made Suzuki, the Suzuki XRH-1, and Randy de Puniet’s role in all this is very speculative and uncertain. The only thing we can say for sure then is that it will be interesting to watch the limited number of “factory” seats sort themselves out.

Suzuki’s MotoGP test team took advantage of the presence of the MotoGP paddock at Austin to plan a test directly after the Grand Prix of the Americas. Under the watchful eye of team manager Davide Brivio, the team planned to have test rider Randy De Puniet put in three days of testing at a circuit, as the team had not yet tested the Suzuki XRH-1 at COTA, in a bid to gather more data ahead of their return to the series in 2015. Unfortunately for Suzuki, very heavy hail and thunderstorms made testing extremely difficult on Monday, leaving the track very dirty and much slower than it had been for Sunday’s race.

This is the second part of our two-part series on how the silly season for next year’s MotoGP rider line up may play out. If you missed the first part, you can catch up with the situation in the Honda and Yamaha factory teams here.

Up until late in the 2013 season, changes in the rider lineup for Yamaha and Honda’s MotoGP squads looked to be limited. Though all four riders will technically be on the open market at the end of 2014, the most likely scenarios for 2015 and beyond looked fairly settled.

Either the lineups of the Repsol Honda and Movistar Yamaha teams would remain identical, or Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa might swap seats. The biggest question mark, it appeared, hung over whether Valentino Rossi would continue racing after 2014.

Two major shake ups changed all that. For Valentino Rossi, the replacement of Jeremy Burgess with Silvano Galbusera – and the increased role for electronics engineer Matteo Flamigni – has helped him find at least some of the time he was losing to the three Spaniards who dominated MotoGP last year, making it more likely he will stay on at Yamaha for another couple of seasons. That leaves the situation at Yamaha look more stable than before.

The biggest change, though, came at Ducati. The top of the entire Ducati Corse department underwent radical change. Gigi Dall’Igna was brought in to replace Bernhard Gobmeier as head of Ducati Corse, while Davide Tardozzi joined Paolo Ciabatti and Ernesto Marinelli to help manage the MotoGP and World Superbike teams.

The arrival of Dall’Igna and Tardozzi has had a major impact, and will likely become even more significant as the season progresses. Dall’Igna has greatly improved communications between staff at Ducati’s Bologna headquarters and the race teams at the track, making for a much more efficient organization.

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.

When Suzuki decided to move their return to MotoGP back a year, from 2014 to 2015, questions were raised over just how serious they are about actually coming back. The odds appear stacked against them: the bikes were some way off the pace, over 1.8 seconds at Misano.

Suzuki is still working with their Mitsubishi electronics unit, not yet having moved to the Magneti Marelli unit which is compulsory from 2014, and coming to MotoGP in 2015 would leave them just two seasons before a new set of regulations is to be introduced, likely to include a rev limit and compulsory spec software. Suzuki face an uphill task.

Despite the challenges, they seem determined to come back to motorcycle racing’s premier class. One sign of their intent is the launch of a new four-part video series on the progress made on the MotoGP project, the first video of which was released yesterday.

It is mostly just motorcycle porn for racing fans, but to our knowledge the video is the first time that Suzuki has publicly acknowledged its inline-four cylinder engine design for its XRH-1 MotoGP test bike. Suzuki will be back testing in 2014, with Randy de Puniet now solely committed to test-riding the machine for the Japanese OEM. High on the team’s list is getting its race program to work on only 20 liters of fuel, as well as switching from Suzuki’s current Mitsubishi-designed ECU to the spec-ECU supplied by Dorna and built by Magneti Marelli. Neither task is an easy one as Suzuki gears up for its 2015 return to Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Behold the Suzuki XRH-1 MotoGP race bike prototype that has been the subject of so much conjecture in the MotoGP paddock. On display at the Suzuki stand at the 2013 EICMA show, it was perhaps the most technologically advanced motorcycle at the yearly motorcycle event, yet you would only know that if you went to Milan last week. Finding an inline-four engine at its heart, Suzuki hopes to bridge the gap between MotoGP and street bike a bit with this entry, which is a good thing since the current generation GSX-R is going on its sixth model year. It appears until Suzuki re-enters MotoGP or builds a new superbike for the street, these photos are all we have to drool over from Hamamatsu. That will suffice…for now.

Pity poor Jorge Lorenzo. Once again he comes to a test and tops the timesheets, and everyone is talking about someone else. This time, though, he will probably not mind, as he was not really out for glory at the test, just to work on settings before heading to the next test at Aragon on Wednesday. If it isn’t rained off that is.

Lorenzo chose to skip the morning session, preferring to rest after an impressive win on Sunday, but once underway he was quickly up to speed hitting the top three after just a couple of laps, and ending the day on top.

The Factory Yamaha man had been working on setup, but had also tested a new fuel tank. The new tank does not change the weight balance from the current version used by the factory riders, but it does have a slightly different shape to fit under the seat more comfortably and allow Lorenzo to position himself better on the bike.

On the other side of the garage, Valentino Rossi was once again pursuing weight distribution changes to improve his feel with the bike, especially to help him in braking. A more radical change was planned for the afternoon, but a fast crash at Turn 3 left the bike damaged, meaning that plan had to be abandoned.

Rossi returned to the track at the end of the day to test the new rear tire Bridgestone had brought, and was positive about the feel of the tire. The new construction hard rear tire was a clear improvement, Rossi said, and it was good for the hard rear to once again be an option.

So far this year, the only tire that has worked at most tracks has been the softer option, leaving the riders with a de facto rear allocation of just seven rears for a weekend.

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.

Just hours before the development team’s public debut on the track (private debuts here & here), Suzuki has announced that it will return to the MotoGP Championship in 2015, not 2014. That gives the Japanese factory 21 months to develop its inline-four GP bike with test rider Randy de Puniet, and Davide Brivio at the helm as test team manager. Still, Suzuki’s return will mean another two bikes on the MotoGP grid, and Suzuki itself will manage and run the MotoGP team. What the will do to the 2013 silly season remains to be seen, but we can’t wait to see some more photos of the still unnamed Suzuki GP bike on the track. A press release from Suzuki Racing is after the jump.

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.