Intermittent cloudy skies delivered bouts of light rain and made the 2014 Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana at the Ricardo Tormo circuit a delicate balancing-act of risk and skill for the fastest motorcycle racers in the world at what was the 18th and final round of the MotoGP Championship yesterday.
Team Suzuki MotoGP lined-up on the grid in a wild-card appearance; and for the first time since 2011. Randy De Puniet was circulating inside the top-20 on the GSX-RR and determined to aim for the group fighting for points, but had to terminate his race after just 12 laps due to a technical glitch.
The team had been working from the moment it arrived in Valencia and ploughed a way through the settings, ideas and doubts as a result of a comprehensive testing programme in 2014.
In the hands of 33-year-old De Puniet, the Suzuki crew had a willing and determined athlete keen to enjoy perhaps his last foray in MotoGP before changing Suzuki machinery for a World Superbike attempt in 2015. The Frenchman knows the new MotoGP project intimately and even though predictable teething problems surfaced during the weekend, he still managed to lower his lap-times and put the GSX-RR firmly into the competitive environment that Suzuki needed to progress with its racing goal.
Suzuki will now welcome 2014 Open category winner Aleix Espargaro and former Moto3 World Champion Maverick Viñales into the pit box on monday for the very first briefings and test-laps looking towards 2015.
Randy De Puniet:
“We knew it would not be an easy weekend but I did not expect to run into these problems. Everyone in the team tried their best but it was not sufficient to finish as I struggled with a gearbox-shifting problem. It is a shame because in these race conditions I might have been able to push for a good position. Now it is time for me to switch to Superbike. I think I did a good job for Suzuki during the year and I’m interested to see and hear the feedback of the new riders now.”
Davide Brivio - Team Manager:
“We faced some technical issues this weekend, some of which we have not encountered during the testing campaign. From this point of view it was a good decision to race here and learn more for our job over the winter. In terms of performance - and with everything considered - things are not so bad. We know we have to improve the engine and electronics and we are already working [on this]. Now we can add the information from this weekend. Despite everything, it was good to race at Valencia and make these discoveries now. We will test this week. We won’t find big solutions in the space of one day so we will have to try and manage. The new riders want to test as soon as possible and get a feeling for the bike so we will do what we can to give them the best conditions and then see how the test will progress.”
Satoru Terada - Team Suzuki MotoGP Director:
“It was quite a tough weekend for the team. We'd been having some technical problems recently and we couldn’t find a sufficient solution, so it was a difficult from the start of the meeting. We feel sorry for Randy as he made such a big effort in the last two years with the development process and we really appreciate him giving his best in this final race of the season. Today was actually our first race after three years and we learned a lot; especially about what we are missing. We'll have two new young riders to try our bikes tomorrow and we are excited to know their impressions. We understand that we have to solve our current problems first, listen to their requirements; and then look towards the first official IRTA test next February in Sepang.”
Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana MotoGP result: 1. Marc MARQUEZ (Honda), 2. Valentino ROSSI (Yamaha), 3. Dani PEDROSA (Honda), 4. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati), 5. Cal CRUTCHLOW (Ducati), 6. Pol ESPARGARO (Yamaha), 7. Aleix ESPARGARO (Forward Yamaha), 8. Stefan BRADL (Honda), 9. Michele PIRRO (Ducati), 10. Scott REDDING (Honda). 24. Randy DE PUNIET (Team Suzuki MotoGP).