The throaty growl of the GSX-RR was heard around the MotoGP pit lane for the first time in almost three years today as Randy De Puniet helped reintroduce Suzuki to the very highest level of Grand Prix racing.
The 33 year old Frenchman worked through two Free Practice sessions to set his best ever lap on the fetching blue and yellow motorcycle around the twisty Circuit Ricardo Tormo layout in bright and pleasant, if slightly breezy, conditions.
The opening day of the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana on Spain’s east coast marked a small milestone in Suzuki’s invigorated attempt at the premier class and its first blast at MotoGP since the final round of the 2011 season at the same venue. The crew worked closely with Bridgestone tyre technicians and also built on refinements made during a recent test also around the flat curves of the site a short distance from the city of Valencia.
Progress was evident with De Puniet’s quickest attempt in FP2. The veteran set a 1min 32.799 through the fourteen curves and this represented a half second improvement over his quickest lap through testing. The former Grand Prix winner encountered a technical problem towards the end of the session and on his 17th lap that forced a hasty trip back to the pits and another circulation on the second GSX-RR. Unfortunately there was only two minutes left in the timed period and he couldn’t clock another effort to budge up from 15th place. He finally rested in 18th and only 1.3 seconds away from world champion Marc Marquez’s top spot in the classification. It was a dramatic but hugely encouraging opening MotoGP foray for the factory Suzuki squad.
A bright climate and temperatures expecting to hit a height of 20 degrees are forecast for Saturday where the grid positions for the 18th and final round of the 2014 MotoGP campaign will be decided.
Randy De Puniet:
“I’m really happy to be back at a Grand Prix. It was not so bad today. We are only 1.3 [seconds] away from first position and that’s OK for our first day. I had a technical problem at the end otherwise I think I could have improved the lap time a little bit more. The conditions were great this morning but it was a bit cloudier and windier this afternoon. Still, we are in November so it is not bad! I’m satisfied. We need to make a few adjustments because I struggled with the hard rear tyre and we’ll discuss what direction we will take for the race. It is hard to work so fast and with only 45 minutes to make it happen. I liked being out on the track at a race after one year and I don’t feel like I’ve missed a season; this is good and I’m ready to fight to put the bike on the best place on the grid and then in the best position during the race. We are faster here today than we were at the test and every session I feel more confident. I think if we all give the maximum then we can be happy and this is what we want.”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager:
“Today was full of emotion. When we started the bike this morning it felt special to be back in a race environment. Today was not so bad. We had a problem at the end but we are not so far [from the fastest times]. The performance was quite good considering that we haven’t raced for a long time. To come here for the last GP – when everybody else has had so much track time and experience – is not so easy but we are doing OK. Tomorrow we have to look at our tyre choice for the race and also improve our electronic setting. We need to improve the package and find more grip. We have to rush with the stuff you would normally work on during a race weekend; we need to find that best base setting. Anyway I’m excited and we’ll continue working.”