Ryo Makes Donington Debut

Elliot Strong
by Elliot Strong
From Team Suzuki News Service:

MotoGP, Round Eight, First Qualifying, Donington Park, Great Britain, July 12th.

TEAM SUZUKI'S Akira Ryo made his debut at the tricky Donington Park Grand Prix circuit today, finishing in 19th place on the provisional grid, but confident he can improve tomorrow...

The 34-year-old Japanese rider has never ridden at Donington before and had only one-hour of free practice in the morning before he took to the track for first qualifying on his 990c V-4 four-stroke GSV-R. His 19th place on the provisional starting grid is just three seconds off the pole position time and bodes well for final qualifying tomorrow, when the plucky Suzuki rider will be able to put the track knowledge he learned today to good use and improve his starting position.

The flowing twists and turns that make up the 4.023km (~2.51 miles) long Donington circuit are renowned for being difficult to master. From the tight turn at Redgate, through the deceptively fast Craner curves, Mclean's and the Esses right to the final bumpy turn at Goddards, all the corners blend together making it a hard race track to learn. Many riders claim that even a slight error can ruin the next three or four-corners and destroy your chances of improving your lap time.

The All-Japan Superbike Champion is riding the latest version of the GSV-R Suzuki, similar to the machines of Team Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki riders Kenny Roberts Jr. and Sete Gibernau. He is happy that he is progressing in the right direction with both his chassis and suspension set-up and set his fastest lap time right at the end of the session.

Ryo said: "This is just the first step on the first day and the time doesn't matter very much. Today I was on a mission to get the right gear ratios and suspension set-up. This is my first time at the track and I need to get the bike set-up right before I can really attack the lap time. The track is much easier to learn than the last round at Assen and I am confident I can improve dramatically tomorrow."

Ryo's performance is all the more impressive because as well as contending with a new track, the Suzuki rider is also coming to terms with unfamiliar Michelin tires - he is used to riding Dunlop tires in Japan. He is also running his trademark one steel and one carbon brake disc on the front wheel. As a regular Superbike rider, he is not used to the ferocious braking power of carbon discs and finds this mixture suits his riding style.

Suzuki team manager Garry Taylor said: "Akira is getting faster with every lap he rides around Donington. He took three seconds off his lap time during qualifying, compared with free practice, which is impressive. Hopefully he will continue to improve tomorrow."

The GSV-R made its racing debut at the first round of the 2002 season, a full year earlier than expected. Ryo, riding as a wild-card entry at the first round of the Championship at Suzuka in April, finished runner-up in the bike's first race, despite atrocious weather conditions. He has been called in as a Team Suzuki wild card rider for three races mid-season to speed up the GSV-R's development progress. He rode at Catalunya in Spain, finishing 11th and at the Dutch TT at Assen in Holland, finishing a credible 15th.

First Qualifying -1: Alex Barros (Honda)1:31.8772: Kenny Roberts (Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki) +.2463: Max Biaggi (Yamaha) +.3204: John Hopkins (Yamaha) +.6465: Carlos Checa (Yamaha) +.6646: Jeremy McWilliams (Proton) +.7257: Norick Abe (Yamaha) +.8188: Shinya Nakano (Yamaha) +.9339: Daijiro Kato (Honda) +.97310: Tetsuya Harada (Honda) +1.02312: Sete Gibernau (Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki) +1.29519: Akira Ryo (Team Suzuki) +3.064
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