Cycle News

Cycle News 2013 Issue 25 June 25

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 116 of 119

CN III IN THE PADDOCK P118 BY MICHAEL SCOTT SUZUKI, OR NOT SUZUKI… THAT IS THE QUESTION S omething old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue. Suzuki complied with the old marriage saw, as the factory began its rapprochement with MotoGP. Old is the company itself, in GP racing since 1960; new is the bike – a Yamaha-like in-line four. Test rider Randy de Puniet is borrowed from the Aspar team. The paint was blue. The bike went well, damned well, in its first test. The only downer was when Suzuki simultaneously announced that instead of returning in 2014 it will be one year later. But will the old wives' tale be enough to secure a smooth resumption of relations with the World Championship? The Suzuki/MotoGP story is as complicated as any gossip mag's account of a troubled celebrity marriage. On the one side, a very oldschool Japanese company whose motives are shielded by a wall of inscrutability, and which goes its own way without feeling much need to explain. On the other, Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta – a fiery table-thumper, full of threats and ultimatums, alternately cajoling and demanding, and changing his tune at will to suit ever-changing circumstances. When they met, Suzuki was one of three leading players at the two-stroke 500 party; Dorna just a Juan-come-lately. Suzuki's status took a knock when the class went four-stroke in 2002. Torpid management, a lack of investment and some technical blind alleys (like using Mitsubishi electronics) meant the Suzukis were always a step or two behind. The strains in the marriage to Dorna ran in parallel. One crisis point came when engine numbers were limited for the first time in 2010. Suzuki's Vfour had a habit of lunching valve springs, and were now unable to keep renewing them since engines were sealed. They clearly weren't going to make it through the year on six engines. Dorna was in a conciliatory mood, as were the rival factories – Suzuki got a special conces- sion: three extra engines. Dorna was generous also in waiving the "no rookies" rule for Suzuki to make way for ex-125 champ Alvaro Bautista in 2010. Things were a bit rockier the next year, when Suzuki unilaterally decided to cut the team from two to one rider, to save money. Now Ezpeleta got angry, threatening legal action... until lawyers pointed out Suzuki was breaking only the spirit of the rules rather than the letter. Then Suzuki pulled out at the end of 2011, blaming the world recession. They would return, they said, in 2014. Paying no attention to Ezpeleta, his plans to boost the grid, and to tie the factories to firm new contracts. A step too far, as Ezpeleta made abundantly clear. If Suzuki thought they could just come and

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