Tyco Suzuki British Superbike Team Manager Philip Neill talks about preparation for the upcoming season with riders Josh Brookes and Alastair Seeley, plus International Road Racing with Guy Martin and Conor Cummins and the Suzuki team's sponsors.
It's a new year but the pressures are still the same. It really is hard to believe that we are only four weeks away from our first scheduled test of 2012. It seems a short time ago when we spent several days around the negotiating table and many, many hours in front of the computer screen; all with the aim of securing a new title sponsor for the 2012 racing season.
However, with details all agreed and the paperwork side of the agreement tucked away, it really is great to have a new sponsor in Tyco Security Products. Phil Dashey and his crew is such an enthusiastic bunch of people. It is heartening to be involved with people who have a strong passion for motorcycle racing. In other words, it's not simply a commercial agreement although we do intend delivering a positive return to Tyco on their obvious investment!
Continuing on the all-important sponsorship aspect, obviously without these guys we really would not be racing at all. It is also encouraging to confirm that all of our long-standing partners have remained on-board for the new season, together with a few new ones. So a big welcome to: Elas, Rhino, WOT, Ifsec, First City Care and Norbain.
In terms of our racing schedule for 2012, we have once again taken on a very busy programme including a full BSB campaign together with the international road racing season, plus the British Motocross Championship thrown in for good measure. A big workload I admit, but with a great group of enthusiastic guys on-board I'm confident we can do a good job on all fronts.
To be honest it is difficult to attract the level of sponsorship required to compete at the top level these days, but our aim is to provide a better return to our partners by competing at multiple levels and therefore maximising our media coverage.
BSB remains our number one goal and despite some speculation, it really was a priority to retain Josh Brookes as he is a proven race winner and Championship contender. Although it took some time last year for Josh to gel with the GSX-R1000, once he did, the results were there for all to see.
The plan from an early stage was also to support Alastair Seeley in his progression back into BSB; although the first part of that plan - winning the 2011 Supersport title - looked a little shaky at one point. Just as we knew he could, he pulled it together in the end and more-than deserves his shot at the premier title. Keep an eye on number #34, he will provide a few surprises and problems for the established BSB stars!
On the road racing front we did have a few 'trying days' pinning Guy Martin down to actually sign his 2012 contract (easier said than done as he rarely answers his phone!) Although in actual fact it was never any hassle as Guy had agreed terms on a hand-shake back in August, which to be fair, neither of us would ever have gone back on anyway. Adding a second road racer was a bit of a surprise and if I'm honest it was not originally part of the plan. As everyone knows, TAS Racing is very much a road racing team at heart and with Hector Neill's passion for his beloved TT still as strong as ever, he was eager to go back to our original two-rider structure, which to be fair does make sense.
For many reasons Conor Cummins was always the most likely option for this role as we have always been strong admirers of the 'big lad' and again, I firmly believe that he will return to his very best this year, which as everyone knows is more than good-enough to put him in a podium-challenging position at the TT.
As the season draws nearer, we are thankfully reaching the final stages of building new bikes, re-painting/ decaling all our vehicles and entire infrastructure. So it is now time to think about testing.
For 2012 we will adapt a different approach and not venture to the south coast of Spain for our annual testing in the sun. Instead, we will use our local Kirkistown circuit in Northern Ireland for all the initial testing, as it actually suits the plan much better. Not only do we frequently have the circuit to ourselves with an open pit lane, but we are only one hour from the workshop and therefore machine changes can be made very easily and back-to-back testing under the same circumstances is a better way to move forward.
Together with Kirkistown we will use as many opportunities as possible to put some miles under our belts at BSB circuits - something we find beneficial - even though it becomes very difficult once the season gets underway. Another important factor in our pre-season build up/ test plan is our customary road racing tyre evaluation programme. This is an extremely important part of our preparation for the TT. It is obviously impossible to replicate the TT for testing purposes, although with experience, we have discovered this activity is better suited to UK test tracks with an early-season National Road Race, like Cookstown, thrown in for good measure.
Hopefully this just about rounds up our pre-season activities and the next time you see us at the race track, please take note we are no longer the guys in Black; we are the ones in the lovely bright Blue, white and red corporate colours of Suzuki, which just so happens to also compliment our new title sponsor Tyco Security Products, not to mention TAS Racing! I've waited five years to get back to the colours we are so famous for so let's hope they bring us all some success.