Team Suzuki MotoGP spent Saturday evening at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo going over the final plans, settings and strategies for its re-introduction to the premier class of Grand Prix racing for what will be the 18th and final round of the 2014 season tomorrow at Valencia in Spain.
Randy De Puniet improved his best-lap around the 14 curves of the flat and curling layout on the works GSX-RR by two-10ths-of-a-second compared to his fastest effort through Friday’s Free Practice sessions. Despite running into a few more small teething-troubles with the brand-new MotoGP project, the 33-year-old Frenchman was able to secure a spot on the seventh row of the grid for the 30-lap (120km) Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana on Sunday afternoon.
The GSX-RR cut through cool and cloudy air on Saturday for the second day of action at the Ricardo Tormo and as the vast stadium seating section started to fill with fans and expectation. De Puniet, who claimed victory at Valencia over 10 years ago in the 250cc class and clearly knows his way around the course thanks to 15 previous Grands Prix at the venue, hit lap-times in the mid-to-low 1 minute 32 second bracket. He was 20th in FP3 and then slotted into the QP1 group.
He posted a 32.8 on his first quick attempt and lowered the chrono to 32.5. The Saturday afternoon outing was not without interruption for the fledgling Suzuki crew but Team Manager Davide Brivio and his technicians were able to gather more information and valuable data in a ‘race setting’ in preparation for their work in the coming days (2015 test) and winter period. The first ‘moment of truth’ arrives Sunday with Suzuki’s first Grand Prix since the end of the 2011 campaign.
Randy De Puniet:
“Not so easy today. We had a few more technical issues and we had to jump between the bikes and I couldn’t really ride like I wanted to. I’m a bit disappointed about the position because I believed I could have done much better. It’s the first race for the bike, however, and tomorrow we will try our best. I think I can ride low ‘32s tomorrow. I know I can do this and I can be consistent but we haven’t been able to show this yet. I’m ready to fight with everybody tomorrow and I would love this if we can make it happen. If we keep going in the right direction then we will have no regrets.”
Davide Brivio - Team Manager:
“A bit faster today and overall I think things are not too bad for our first race. We are encountering some issues but this is a part of being in a race environment with a project that is still young! This is why we are here; to take note of the problems we might find and the gap we have to the others. We are in the process and path we need to take. It is all about shaping our winter homework. I don’t think the performance is so bad and I can see some potential with the bike once a couple of technical issues have been solved. I think Randy is doing a good job and putting in a lot of effort despite a challenging situation. We are looking forward to the race tomorrow and I’m sure Randy will find a bit extra when he is part of the group. Up until now we are doing what we need to do and I think it is going OK.”
MotoGP Qualification results: 1. Valentino ROSSI (Yamaha) 1'30.843, 2. Andrea IANNONE (Ducati) 1'30.975, 3. Dani PEDROSA (Honda) 1'30.999, 4. Jorge LORENZO (Yamaha) 1'31.049, 5. Marc MARQUEZ (Honda) 1'31.144, 6. Pol ESPARGARO (Yamaha) 1'31.307, 7. Bradley SMITH (Yamaha) 1'31.324, 8. Cal CRUTCHLOW (Ducati) 1'31.359, 9. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati) 1'31.426, 10. Stefan BRADL (Honda) 1'31.443, 11. Aleix ESPARGARO Forward (Yamaha) 1'31.486, 12. Michele PIRRO (Ducati) 1'32.617, 13. Alvaro BAUTISTA (Honda) 1'32.160, 14. Scott REDDING (Honda) 1'32.315, 15. Yonny HERNANDEZ (Ducati) 1'32.321, 16. Nicky HAYDEN (Honda) 1'32.395, 17. Hector BARBERA (Ducati) 1'32.443, 18. Hiroshi AOYAMA (Honda) 1'32.449, 19. Alex DE ANGELIS Forward (Yamaha) 1'32.453, 20. RANDY DE PUNIET TEAM SUZUKI MotoGP (Suzuki GSX-RR) 1'32.509, 21. Danilo PETRUCCI (ART) 1'32.683, 22. Michael LAVERTY (PBM) 1'32.808, 23. Karel ABRAHAM (Honda) 1'33.019, 24. Broc PARKES (PBM) 1'33.972, 25. Mike DI MEGLIO (Avintia) 1'34.510.