Team Suzuki MotoGP Test Rider Sylvain Guintoli talks about his role in helping develop the World Championship-winning Suzuki GSX-RR.
“Winter is a time to relax and enjoy time with my family, especially as my wife and I have just welcomed a new addition to our brood! And it’s really nice to take some time off, although I’m really hoping that things can slowly get back to normal this year.
“When you’re at home, without the races, it’s also a good time to reflect and look back at happy memories. I’ve been thinking about the fantastic success of Suzuki in 2020 and remembering how my role with Team Suzuki Ecstar began.
“I joined in 2017 after Alex’s wrist injury and I stepped in to replace him. At the time I had started doing some development with the GSX-R in British Superbikes with Suzuki, and Davide Brivio called me because I had past MotoGP experience.
“For me it was a great opportunity because usually when you go out of MotoGP, you can’t get back in, so it was really nice to be back riding a GP bike. My first thoughts were that it was just brilliant to experience riding a bike like that again and first of all you just need to have a bit of fun on the bike, and then you have to get into the technical stuff and understanding the bike, trying to go faster.
“My first impression of the GSX-RR was that it was very well balanced, but there was an issue with the engine that year. That balance has become a sort of ‘theme’ around the GSX-RR, and that’s actually the most important thing in GP racing because at the end of the day these bikes are too powerful for the tracks and too powerful for the grip level, so the key is to manage what you have and make the most it.
“We worked hard and one of the biggest improvements came between 2017 and 2018; the engine was much better and all the tools that were put in place to try and counteract the engine issue were still all really useful and beneficial, because we had taken a deep dive into the bike and that allowed us to understand even more about the GSX-RR. Then after that it was all about the little steps; aerodynamics, engine braking and stability. Just chipping away and making small adjustments - all those little things add up. The following year, in 2019, the bike was getting better and better and so were the results.
“Then last year, in 2020, the big difference was the new chassis, which I tried for the first time at the pre-season Sepang test; it was a big improvement! It allows the riders to brake harder, which was a big plus. Joan brakes late and he brakes hard, so it really helped him. And the new engine in 2020 was also better in a few areas, so we did take a big step last year. Historically Suzuki has always built bikes that handle well and corner well; it’s in the DNA and this 2020 GSX-RR was sort of the ultimate in that way.
“I love seeing the work put into action so I watch every session, even when I’m at home, and last year it was more exciting than ever seeing Joan and Alex perform so well! I’m quite geeky about it because after each track session I like to analyse the timesheets and all the info. I’m really interested and it helps me to understand the different riding styles and strengths of Suzuki’s riders and pinpoint what they need….and apart from that I’m just a big fan of motorbike racing!
“Usually I would do about 10,000km of testing but in 2020 it was much harder because of the pandemic. This year, in 2021, it looks like the schedule will change again and it will be hard to know about travel restrictions and how much we’re able to test. Last year I couldn’t go to Japan and that was difficult, and we heard a few days ago that the Sepang test is cancelled so we need to wait and see what’s possible. But there is also a development freeze which is good for us because we’re very happy with the bike, although we’re keen to continue working for the future.
“Things will be a little different for Team Suzuki Ecstar this year because Davide has left the team. I enjoyed working with him and I’m grateful to him for welcoming me and sharing some great memories. For now I’m training and keeping fit, which is crucial to be able to handle a full day of testing, so I do a lot of cycling and go on adventures. I’m ready to get back on the GSX-RR as soon as possible!
Happy New Year everyone!”