The Bennetts Suzuki team will give the all-new GSX-R1000 its MCE British Superbike Championship debut this weekend, when the opening round of the 2017 series gets underway at Donington Park.
The team has enjoyed a positive winter of testing and development, working closely with the Suzuki factory in Japan as well as world-famous tuning house Yoshimura, to turn the already impressive base package into a British Superbike challenger.
Testing in Spain saw superbike riders Sylvain Guintoli and Taylor Mackenzie put the miles in to work out which areas of development they most needed to focus on, and ended with both pilots recording impressive lap times at both Cartagena and Almeria. A wet test at Donington Park earlier this month was also important, giving the team valuable information on how the new superbike performs in conditions that are likely to be encountered again this season.
Former British Superstock 1000 champion, Richard Cooper, returns to the class for 2017, and will be hoping the work he put in over the winter and the impressive performance from the standard bike in testing will allow him to be competitive from the off, in a series that will see significant changes to its race format this season.
Sylvain Guintoli, "The team has done a lot of work over winter, and it was good to do so many laps on the base bike early on, as we know it has really strong qualities and we know what they are. I also rode at the factory test in Sepang, which gave me an idea of how the bike works as a race bike. But with BSB we have different rules and regulations we have to work to, so testing has been about getting the bike to work within those.
"We have had some good tests over winter and done a lot of work. The Donington test was in really bad weather but it was still important for us to test and see how the bike works in those conditions. We have some bits to still improve, but it doesn't happen overnight.
"But it's good to be going racing now. We are going to face some strong competition and teams with lots of data. But we have been improving every time we go out, we've set some good lap times, and now we need to do it when it counts."
Taylor Mackenzie, "I'm really excited now to go racing. Testing was really good, really interesting, and even though we have a brand new bike, we're well ahead of where we thought we'd be. I don't think anyone is any better prepared than we are going into the weekend.
"But for me, I'm just going to take it as it comes. My goal is to be in the top 10 all year, and make progress towards the sharp end as the season goes on."
Richard Cooper, "We were ready to go racing after the tests in Spain to be fair, so I'm looking forward to finally getting out there and doing it.
"I'm feeling confident. I feel I've prepared well and I know the team has worked hard. Testing was good and I've been around long enough to know when a bike's working well, and I think our performances in testing and our lap times have been right on the money. And you always find more at a race weekend as well, as you're not quite pushing 100% in testing.
"The weather could have a big effect this weekend, especially with the new format for Superstock. If it's looking bad on Friday we'll get out and get a wet setting dialled in, but I've got my fingers crossed it'll be dry."
Steve Hicken - team manager, "I think everyone in the team is keen to get going and go and do it all for real now. It's been a busy winter, and we've had a lot of work to do to get to this point, but we always knew that would be the case with a brand new bike.
"We did a lot of work with the base bike, and that was impressive from the off. It has a lot of strong characteristics that you want from a race bike, and in Superstock trim it's about there already. We've had more work to do to get it where we want it in BSB spec, with the different rules and regulations, and it's on ongoing project with more work to do. That said, we're happy with where we've got ourselves for round one and confident that we've got a bike and a team that can go out and start the season strongly and get some good results."
The first free practice session for the National Superstock 1000 championship takes place at 11:55 on Friday 31 March, before British Superbike practice starts at 13:00. The flag will drop for the first Superstock race at 13:00 on Saturday 1 April, followed by British Superbike qualifying from 16:00, before the second Superstock race and two British Superbike races take place on Sunday 2 April.