With the start of the 2012 World Superbike season less than eight weeks away, Team Suzuki Racing caught up with Paul Denning, Team Principal at the Crescent-Yoshimura backed Suzuki World Superbike Team.
The former Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Team Manager has put together a strong two-man team of British Superbike Championship runner-up John Hopkins and Suzuki newcomer Leon Camier in the squad run by long-standing Suzuki BSB Team Manager Jack Valentine.
What are your initial thoughts about the World Superbike Championship and what are your feelings about the level of competition?
Paul Denning: "The series looks very interesting for 2012 and even with Yamaha's withdrawal, the level of manufacturer representation is very positive - Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW and Aprilia all have strong teams, whether "factory" or privately operated and all have very fast riders. The combination of the Pirelli tyres and Superbike specification machine is an "easier" package to access the limits of performance compared to the MotoGP bikes and therefore more riders can battle for the top positions. I say that with complete respect to all the riders in SBK, who fight like animals to win, but the Superbike specification bikes generally permit closer racing and different riders going for the podium week-to-week which is great for the fans. In Superbike, the rider can still make the difference. That said - the highest quality riders, bikes and teams are the ones who always end up battling for the title and we hope to be amongst them!"
How much difference is there between your GSX-R1000 in BSB and WSBK?
Paul Denning: "The 2012 GSX-R will look pretty much the same but very few components will be shared - the whole bike has been seriously updated. Yoshimura is working very hard on the motor and we are sharing a lot of development ideas together; the suspension and brakes are all new, the Motec electronics package is updated and every single detail on the GSX-R is being carefully considered. The Suzuki is a great all-round package - we have to make sure we allow the riders to use 100% of the bike's abilities by refining the GSX-R to be as good as it can be."
Who are your main competitors in 2012?
Paul Denning: "It's a much shorter list to say who won't be! There are so many strong riders and teams and it's up to us to maximise our potential and do our best, not to second-guess who else will be quick because they all are! As Crescent Suzuki, we are the new guys in SBK and we are entering with a "quiet" attitude; we have to respect all the top teams and riders and focus on our own performance."
Will John be fully recovered and fit for the first race?
Paul Denning: "I guess the finger will never be perfect but it's good enough to race a motorcycle! John went through a lot last year - it was a minor injury that turned into a real nightmare. He's just started properly training now - after a horrible month of extremely strong antibiotics - but his base fitness levels are good enough that he'll bounce back quickly. I have no concerns - I do expect his fitness level to improve race by race - but it will be tough to be at a genuine 100% for Philip Island."
Leon is new to your team, but is experienced in WSBK, so how do you think he will adapt to the GSX-R1000?
Paul Denning: "He'll adapt easily. The bike fits him well, he likes the basic chassis feel and he knows and trusts the team. We had a tough test in Portimao but Leon still wasn't far off at the end; he'll be right at the sharp end of the fight I'm sure."
In the team's rookie year in WSBK, do you think you can challenge for the podium?
Paul Denning: "A simple straightforward question deserves a similar answer - Yes!!"
2012 WORLD SUPERBIKE DATES:
1 26th February - Australia - Phillip Island 2 4th March - TBA - TBA 3 1st April - Europe - TBA 4 22nd April - Netherlands - Assen 5 6th May - Italy - Monza 6 13th May - Europe - Donington 7 28th May - USA - Miller Motosports Park 8 10th June - San Marino - Misano 9 1st July - Spain - Motorland Aragon 10 22nd July - Czech Republic - Brno 11 5th August - United Kingdom - Silverstone 12 26th August - Russia - Moscow International Raceway 13 9th September - Germany - Nurburgring 14 7th October - France - Magny Cours 15 21st October - Portugal - Portimao