MotoGP: Kawasaki, Suzuki finish tests

Two teams opt for Phillip Island test over Jerez

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Nov. 28, 2008
While most of their competition conducted their tests in Spain, Rizla Suzuki and Kawasaki Racing opted for Australia’s Phillip Island circuit for their winter MotoGP test sessions.

The two teams conducted their three-day test at Phillip Island Grand Prix, Nov. 26-28 to gather valuable data for developing their 2009 race machines, before MotoGP’s test ban begins in December. Both teams had disappointing 2008 seasons, and testing at Phillip Island allowed them to avoid the pressure of being compared to the other teams.

Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen combined to log more than 450 laps over the three days to test prototype parts that will be used in the 2009 GSV-R race bike. Last week, the two riders also took part in wind tunnel tests at Suzuki’s facilities in Hamamatsu, Japan.

“We had a lot of new parts from Suzuki to try including, front forks, rear linkages, new frames and swinging arms and we also tested some control tires from Bridgestone … and they worked pretty well with the bike straight away,” says Vermeulen. “We also tested the new engine spec that we had at the Valencia test and that worked pretty well – but I want more steps in the same direction. We also had some electronic modifications and with all this we were able to find some good improvements and we were consistently quicker around here than we were in the race.”

Chris Vermeulen (left) and Loris Capirossi seek to improve on their top ten finishes from the 2008 season.The Australian-born Vermeulen struggled during the 2008 season’s stop at his home track, finishing 15 out of the 16 that completed the Oct. 5 race. Vermeulen’s best test time was 1:31.1, a slight improvement over his best race lap. Capirossi finished tenth in that race and his test time of 1:30.9 was also an improvement.

“We still have some work to do – especially to improve the engine still further – but it has been a really positive three days for us,” says Capirossi. “I did more than 200 laps and it has been a really good test. The prototype bike is already better than the recent one, but the next version we get to try should be even better because that will have lots of new developments and we will be able to use all the information from this test to improve it even further.”

The Kawasaki trio of racers Marco Melandri, John Hopkins and development rider Olivier Jacque combined for more than 150 laps at Phillip Island.

Melandri completed 79 laps as he continued to adapt to a new team and a new bike. His crew worked on adjusting the chassis and suspension settings on his Ninja ZX-RR. Melandri also struggled at the Phillip Island race, finishing 16th for Ducati Marlboro, over a minute behind the race winner, his then-teammate Casey Stoner. Melandri’s best time at the test session was 1:31.8, more than half a second better than his race time.

Hopkins completed 50 laps with a top time of 1:32.3 as he adapted his riding style to compensate for a foot injury.

Injuries prevented John Hopkins from putting pressure on his left footpeg.“The injuries weren’t such a big problem, although I had to adapt my riding style because I still can’t put any pressure on the left footpeg,” says Hopkins. “We found a pretty good set-up on the bike and my lap times were pretty consistent over the long runs we did for Bridgestone, and it’s this consistency that’s important to our development program right now.”

Following the test, Hopkins will fly home to the United States and undergo surgery to remove metal plates from his left foot, ankle and hand.

Jacque, a former 250cc World Champion, had a bit of a scare, highsiding at the Hayshed turn in the final afternoon session.

“I had a big crash late on in the day after the rear came round on me through the right-hander at Hayshed,” says Jacque. “It takes some time to warm up the right-hand side of the tire here, and although I’d been really careful up to this point, I must have just given it a bit too much gas on cold tarmac and down I went. It was a big impact, but apart from a few bruises, I walked away uninjured. It was scary though.”

Related Reading
MotoGP: 2008 Jerez test results