has announced its much-anticipated return to MotoGP
—only it’s going to be a year later than expected. The official announcement from Suzuki states that it will return to MotoGP in 2015
, not next year as was originally predicted by much of the media. The brief statement then outlines the “Europe Test Team in 2013” as consisting of team manager Davide Brivio (whose experience runs from Ducati’s WSBK teams in their glory days to Yamaha MotoGP during Rossi’s previous tenure) and development rider Randy De Puniet, the French veteran who currently rides an Aprilia CRT bike for the Power Electronics Aspar team in MotoGP. The bike’s powerplant is also confirmed to be an inline-four engine, in contrast to the firm’s previous V-four engine in its GSV-R predecessor.
Randy De Puniet was only 0.7...
Randy De Puniet was only 0.7 seconds back from leader Jorge Lorenzo on the first day of testing at Catalunya on Monday (photo by Gold & Goose)
The Suzuki release mentions that, “continuing running tests at the circuits inside and outside Japan for further development and refinement” will be done before the 2015 debut, and judging by the initial results of its first outing with the current MotoGP crop, that development is needed. De Puniet is currently 1.8 seconds behind Jorge Lorenzo’s best time, and over half a second behind the quickest CRT Aprilia machine of Aleix Espargaro on the first day of official MotoGP testing at Catalunya today. (UPDATE: Whoops...De Puniet apparently was just getting dialed in, and set some quick times at the very end of the session. At the end of the day, he ended up 8th quickest, just 0.163 seconds behind 6th-placed Valentino Rossi, and only 0.772 seconds off of Lorenzo's quickest time
. Very impressive for only having ridden the bike for a day, with no baseline settings to start off with.)
Suzuki’s delayed return also changes some of the silly season rider predictions for 2014, as current Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow is in the last year of his contract. Crutchlow could be considered the hot property of 2014, as the British rider has consistently been the quickest rider outside of the factory trio of Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, and the Repsol Honda pair of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez. Crutchlow has been linked with one of the Suzuki seats if negotiations with Yamaha didn’t pan out, but now that option is gone. Ignite Pramac Ducati rider Ben Spies was also linked with the ride.