Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why Suzuki’s MotoGP project needs to take several giant leaps forward

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Why Suzuki’s MotoGP project needs to take several giant leaps forward

Suzuki’s challenge for 2022: build a motorcycle that’s fast enough for Mir and Rins to drive home the GSX-RR’s advantages, rather than just compensate for its disadvantages

Joan Mir’s 2021 defence of Suzuki’s first MotoGP world in two decades was one of the worst title defences (by a fully fit rider) since, erm, Kenny Roberts Jr’s defence of Suzuki’s 2000 world championship.

Neither Mir nor KRJR won a single race as they fought to retain their crowns, for different reasons, of course.

Suzuki won MotoGP’s abbreviated Covid championship partly because the championship only visited nine of the usual 18 or 19 racetracks, many of them outside their traditional time slots and therefore hotter or colder than usual.

“The timing of the races in 2020 was messed up – sometimes very hot, sometimes very cold – and we managed that very well,” says Suzuki MotoGP project leader Shinichi Sahara. “Last year the conditions were more stable, plus the other manufacturers worked to have better tyre management.”

In other words, Suzuki’s rivals learned from Sahara’s crew to manage the Michelins better, both in the garage and on the racetrack, thus cancelling out the GSX-RR’s advantage.

KRJR’s 2001 woes were also tyre-related. During 2000 the American won four races on his RGV500, using Michelin’s 17-inch rear tyre. However, during that season Michelin introduced a new 16.5-inch rear slick, with a radically triangular profile compared to the conventionally rounded 17-inch slick. This tyre allowed riders to accelerate much earlier in the corner.

“Although we made some progress on mid-range power, around 10,000rpm, the bike was around 20 horsepower down on the other bikes at that point,” KRJR’s crew chief, the late Warren Willing, told me. “Then the Yamahas and Hondas got the 16.5 working really good, so they had a lot more grip than they’d had at that point where you pick up the bike up, so they could use their power advantage over us and take two or three bikes lengths out of Junior at every corner. If he tried to accelerate the same way, the engine would bog because it didn’t have the mid-range.”

Thus the RGV’s advantage had been cancelled out.

Suzuki is now back in the same position, needing several giant leaps forward if Mir or team-mate Álex Rins is to have any chance of fighting for the 2022 MotoGP title aboard their GSX-RRs, even though the bike is still the sweetest-handling on the grid.

Last season the GSX-RR’s disadvantages were all too obvious: lack of peak horsepower, lack of a fully developed shapeshifter and lack of performance in qualifying.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Comments

Politely, they also have issues with one rider who can't stop crashing, and if they were to run satellite bikes they'd get more data and potentially solve their problems faster. 

100%.  Coming in a close 2nd in the championship his first year on the bike, and then winning the championship in his second year isn't a "fluke".  It's nice that he was able to get on his father's bike and grab a couple podiums in '06, to show what he was capable of before he retired.  (The fact he did it in a single-rider independent team who built their own chassis, kind of shows how lost Suzuki had really been.)

Suzuki could have had the biggest name in Motogp as the head of their satellite team and couldn't/wouldn't/had no balls to pull the trigger. Suzuki is dead to me.