CN III IN THE PADDOCK
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
SUZUKI, OR NOT SUZUKI…
THAT IS THE QUESTION
omething old, something
new. Something borrowed,
something blue. Suzuki
complied with the old marriage
saw, as the factory began its rapprochement with MotoGP.
Old is the company itself, in
GP racing since 1960; new is the
bike – a Yamaha-like in-line four.
Test rider Randy de Puniet is borrowed from the Aspar team. The
paint was blue.
The bike went well, damned
well, in its first test. The only
downer was when Suzuki simultaneously announced that instead of returning in 2014 it will
be one year later. But will the old
wives' tale be enough to secure
a smooth resumption of relations
with the World Championship?
The Suzuki/MotoGP story is
as complicated as any gossip
mag's account of a troubled celebrity marriage.
On the one side, a very oldschool
whose motives are shielded by
a wall of inscrutability, and which
goes its own way without feeling
much need to explain.
On the other, Dorna's Carmelo
Ezpeleta – a fiery table-thumper,
full of threats and ultimatums, alternately cajoling and demanding,
and changing his tune at will to suit
When they met, Suzuki was
one of three leading players at
the two-stroke 500 party; Dorna
just a Juan-come-lately.
Suzuki's status took a knock
when the class went four-stroke
in 2002. Torpid management,
a lack of investment and some
technical blind alleys (like using
Mitsubishi electronics) meant the
Suzukis were always a step or
The strains in the marriage to
Dorna ran in parallel.
One crisis point came when
engine numbers were limited for
the first time in 2010. Suzuki's Vfour had a habit of lunching valve
springs, and were now unable to
keep renewing them since engines were sealed. They clearly
weren't going to make it through
the year on six engines.
Dorna was in a conciliatory
mood, as were the rival factories
– Suzuki got a special conces-
sion: three extra engines. Dorna
was generous also in waiving the
"no rookies" rule for Suzuki to
make way for ex-125 champ Alvaro Bautista in 2010.
Things were a bit rockier the
next year, when Suzuki unilaterally decided to cut the team from
two to one rider, to save money.
Now Ezpeleta got angry, threatening legal action... until lawyers
pointed out Suzuki was breaking
only the spirit of the rules rather
than the letter. Then Suzuki pulled
out at the end of 2011, blaming the
world recession. They would return, they said, in 2014. Paying no
attention to Ezpeleta, his plans to
boost the grid, and to tie the factories to firm new contracts.
A step too far, as Ezpeleta
made abundantly clear. If Suzuki
thought they could just come and