The Bennetts Suzuki team has concluded a positive five-day testing programme in the south of Spain with the all-new Suzuki GSX-R1000, as preparations continue for the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship and international road racing season.
With the opening round of the season less than a month away, there was plenty of work to be carried out, including assessing the full potential of the already impressive base package from Suzuki.
Taylor Mackenzie, who returns to the superbike class in 2017, spent most of the test exploring the bike's potential, running a number of standard components - including a standard engine. The 24-year-old completed an impressive number of laps to feedback on the bike's strengths, and also work on a base setting he was comfortable with.
He was joined by Richard Cooper for the full five days of the test, as Cooper and the team looked to better understand the bike and the direction to take with setup of his Superstock machine. For three days at Cartagena the team made big adjustments to the bike, assessing how it responded and reacted to the changes, before settling on a comfortable base setup. At Almeria, the 2011 National Superstock 1000 champion pushed harder to post a string of consistently fast lap times and work on his race pace, and is now geared up for the opening round of the championship.
Taylor Mackenzie, "The test was mega, I love the bike, it's so good and the five days couldn't really have gone any better. If someone said beforehand that this was how it would have gone I'd have bitten their hand off. I spent the first part of the test just learning to ride with BSB-spec electronics and without traction control, as that's different for me for this year. And then we were fine-tuning chassis setup. For things like that it's good to be having a second year with the team as we know how each other works and we're just picking up where we left off in that regard. But I did plenty of laps and set personal best lap times at both circuits. It was also good to ride with Sylvain at Almeria as I can learn a lot from him. Hopefully the weather will be kind at the Donington test and we'll work on getting my bike setup for the first race weekend, but I'm really excited to get back on it."
Richard Cooper, "We've had a really good test, for everybody really. The bike's not missed a beat and it was good to finally be able to ride at pace and not be so tentative. We spent a lot of time playing about with it to see what works and what doesn't. Our pace over one lap is good and also over race runs of 22-25 laps. Our pace on used tyres is good and really important, too. I was actually surprised how little we lost over race distance on one rear tyre. Lap times were really consistent, which we're really pleased about. The bike's strength is definitely from the middle of the corner to how it finishes a turn. Which is good as that carries you onto the straights. If round one was next weekend I'd be ready to go. The next test will be good to see all of our rivals on track, and also work on a setting specific for Donington Park, but I'm feeling really positive and looking forward to racing now."
Roads campaigner Michael Dunlop spent the bulk of the test riding the superbike he will race at this year's Isle of Man TT races, as well as the opening round of the BSB series at Donington Park. The Northern Irishman tested a number of new factory and Yoshimura components and worked on the setup of his GSX-R1000, before setting a new personal best lap time around the Cartagena circuit.
The team's other British Superbike rider, Sylvain Guintoli, missed the first three days of the test at Cartagena due to personal reasons, but was able to join the team for two days at Almeria, where he tested the bike with both the standard engine and chassis, as well as the full BSB-spec superbike. The former World Superbike champion was able to draw comparisons after back-to-back tests and highlight areas to further focus on for development, but was pleased with the progress made and the work carried out.
Team manager, Steve Hicken, said after the test, "We're really happy. Everyone talks about potential but I think we've got it and we're right on point after two productive tests. It was important for us to really push the standard package, and Taylor did a great job of putting in the laps. It also helped him get really acquainted with the new GSX-R and then work on his base setup.
"Michael was faster this year than he ever has been at Cartagena, which is only a good thing, and he's very happy with how it's gone so far and knows how much more there is to come. Sylvain also flew out to join us at Almeria after missing the days at Cartagena, and rode both the BSB-spec superbike and standard package, to assess the differences and help feedback on areas to focus on. But again, the times were really good and he's positive and confident.
"We're also ready to go in this year's Superstock championship. Cooper did a great job putting the laps in and he was fast at both tests. I think we could go racing now with him and be on the money. We were making big changes to the bike at Cartagena - going every which way with the setup - to understand how the bike behaved and responded. It meant we could work out what we needed to do to get the bike how he liked it, and he was able to really push on at Almeria and set fast lap times. Everyone in the team is really excited about what we've been able to achieve so far and where we're at. We've got one more test at Donington Park and then we're doing it for real."
The official MCE British Superbike test will take place at Donington Park on 22 March, before round one gets underway at the Leicestershire circuit, running from 31 March - 2 April.