With Suzuki focusing its efforts and - at least as importantly - its money on its MotoGP effort, the Hamamatsu factory has neglected the World Supersport series over the last few years. But this does not mean they have had no presence: Dutch tuner Marc Hoegee has fielded a team for the last few years, but short of funds, the team always seemed to be the nearly men, never quite making it on to the podium.
All that changed during the summer, with Barry Veneman getting ever closer to the podium he has been chasing for the past two years. At Magny Cours, he finally made it. We caught up Veneman on Saturday at the final World Supersport round at Portimao in Portugal.
Q: Earlier in the season, you were a team that was hovering on the brink. Then at the last round at Magny Cours, you get a podium. What happened?
BV: Well, it wasn't just at the last round, it had been going on for longer. We got some new parts in the middle of the season, which gave us some more horsepower. Then we also managed to make the bike lighter. And I've changed, I've gotten stronger as a rider. I made a decision to concentrate on my riding a lot more – I have a day job as well as this – and that's made a huge difference. I've been able to train more, and it's also meant I've had a chance to spend some more time with my family.
That's made me feel better on the bike, made me more confident. Before, we always felt like we were capable of getting in the top 10, but today, while I was riding around here, I was thinking to myself "I've got to be able to get a front row here," and I did, I'm in third.
Q: You think you'll be able to get on the podium here?
BV: That might be a bit more difficult than at Magny Cours. There's a lot of riders here who are out on do-or-die missions, trying to get a ride next year or prove a point. So it could get ugly. At Magny Cours, I had the same attitude: I was either going to get on the podium or crash. We're finishing the season strongly, so I don't need to risk that here.
Q: What do you think of the track
BV: It's amazing. We go to so many of these new tracks which have been designed by computer, but this is totally different. You can tell that whoever built this loves racing. You don't really find this kind of track in Europe. It reminds me most of all of Brands Hatch, but with perfect facilities.
Q: It reminds me a bit of Spa Francorchamps
BV: Sort of. Put some trees around here, and you could be right. But Spa flows a bit more, it's faster. This place is special though, there's a few corners which are just great. That final corner (coming downhill onto the front straight) is really special. And that corner in the dip (the Craig Jones corner), that's pretty special too.