World Superbike new-boy Randy de Puniet stopped by the Suzuki stand at Motorcycle Live to see the MotoGP bike he has been developing, as well as meet and greet fans at the show. Between signing sessions and posing for photos, we had a chat with the 250GP race-winner and MotoGP podium-finisher about developing a grand prix bike and the transition to superbikes.
RdP: We started talking together in 2012 in Brno. I had a good experience with Suzuki in 2011 when I tried the 800 when Paul [Denning] was the team manager and I expect to ride with Suzuki in 2012 but they decided to stop to develop a new bike.
When they decided to develop the new bike we had a meeting together and I was interested to develop this bike because I had a good experience with the team and all the people in Suzuki. Eventually it was possible to mix testing with the CRT season in 2013 and in 2014 I decide to be a 100% test rider with Suzuki.
How much development had taken place before you first rode the bike and what areas did you improve?
RdP: They did good work with Nobu Aoki in Japan and the base of the bike was very good when I first rode it. But after 2013 we switch to Magneti Marelli and this was a problem because the bike was very good with the Mitsubishi and Suzuki electronics, but when we move to Magneti Marelli we are in trouble and we work a lot to adapt the bike to work with the new hardware. We are still not at the level we were with Mitsubishi but that can only mean better things are still to come from this bike in the future.
RdP: We change a lot of chassis, swing arms, engine, many parts changed over the season to improve the bike. But we have been focussed on the electronics more recently to improve that element and is not easy because when you test you are by yourself on the track and it is not easy to compare with different bikes. That is why Valencia was important even if the GP was difficult for us. It was important to be there to understand where we need to improve to keep developing the bike further.
Where is the bike strong?
RdP: The chassis is very good. I like it a lot and it is good because Aleix Espargaro said the same when he rode the bike for the first time so this is good for us. It corners very well and Aleix say the same thing, that he can be very aggressive in the corners on this bike.
What was it like racing a superbike for the first time at the Suzuka 8-Hour?
RdP: It was a little bit strange for me with the power and with the weight difference from grand prix bikes but we had some testing and it was good. It was in this moment that I start to think about superbike. I was enjoying the bike and I started to think it was a good option for me after grand prix.
RdP: The test in Jerez was about learning the bike and learning the tyres because they are very new for me. Everything will be new for me next season. But I am really excited because this is now something I am testing to race. I will be on the grid next year with this bike. Tests are very important as this is the only one before the break. I need to do some race simulation to understand the tyre. But I am really happy and sure we can do a good job.
It was also be important because other teams were be there and even though I was learning the bike and getting used to the team I was also be able to see where we are at and what we can do next season. We need to be more consistent than we have been this year but I think at the end of the season we can finish in a good position in the championship.
Are you looking forward to getting back into competitive racing?
RdP: I miss racing this year and when I ride in Valencia I was happy because I race in Suzuka but this was different for me. So I am looking forward to superbike and I want to race and I want to fight and I want to fight at the top. With the team I think I have a good opportunity to do that.
But you’ll still be testing the GSX-RR throughout 2015?
RdP: I will develop the Michelin tyre for Suzuki and test the GP bike, still but my priority is to do the best job for Crescent in superbike. I am pleased to keep riding the GP bike and you always improve with more time on a bike and I am always learning, but World Superbikes is my focus.