After taking their first win nine years last season, Suzuki haven’t come into a year as strong as they do in 2017. Although losing Maverick Vinales who joins Yamaha, the Ecstar Suzuki team have found a race winner to replace him, with Andrea Iannone heading up 2nd new signing, Alex Rins – who replaces Aleix Espargaro who departs for the Gresini Now TV Aprilia outfit. Will Suzuki build on their 2016 performance, stagnate and remain a threat at some rounds or, will they go backwards as Ducati and Aprilia up the effort?
One thing for sure is that Andrea Iannone didn’t reluctantly choose Suzuki. The Italian, who won at the Red Bull Ring last season, has been impressive in testing, consistently being in the top five or six on certain days. Iannone’s switch did come at a slight shock, as rumour has it that Aprilia did try and sign him – which would make sense seeing as it’s an Italian manufacturer. With Iannone joining a team as number one rider that may also help his confidence. He will be the one that takes Suzuki’s first podiums of 2017 and who’s to say that he won’t go on to take wins?
Talking off wins… Alex Rins partners Suzuki’s all new star-studded line up for 2017 and 2018. The former Moto3 and Moto2 Grand Prix winner and championship challenger is one of four riders to graduate from the intermediate class to the premier class. Undoubtedly quick on his day, Alex Rins’ form has been fluctuating more than the British Pound post-Brexit. 2nd at Brno, 7th at Silverstone, 2nd at Misano, 6th at Aragon and a 20th at Motegi were his mid – to – end season results last year. One may argue that he’s consistently in the top 10, however, to have such fluctuating form can be worrying. Maybe MotoGP will sort Rins out – surely he could take a podium this season?
The Suzuki squad returned in 2015 but it took them to the French Grand Prix last season to take a podium, with Vinales. It was at Silverstone where the team took their first win though, highlighting the fact that the bike likes cool temperatures and also quite fiddly circuits, with a lot of point and squirt corners and fast direction changes. The bike is by no means the fastest in a straight line but that can be countered in the corners. Maverick Vinales showed last year just how many liberties you can take with the bike. If it had a bit more power, it’d be a threat all season round.
So what circuits does the bike go well at? It’s very hard to say given it only really came good last season, although Le Mans was good for them – as they achieved a double top six and a podium with the aforementioned Vinales. The win at Silverstone was backed up with a 7th by Aleix Espargaro, who battled with Jorge Lorenzo for most of the race. The Japanese GP was also kind to them, with Vinales 3rd and Aleix 4th. Could they be a more prominent threat throughout 2017?
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko