Suzuki made a bold move by competing in MotoGP last year with an untested four-stroke machine. Basically, Suzuki did their testing on the track. In that process, the team struggled. The only good thing you could say about Suzuki’s efforts last year is they, at least, had every opportunity to sort the bugs out of their machine and show up in 2003 with something competitive.
Of course, as we all now know, Suzuki did not show up in 2003 with a competitive MotoGP bike. In fact, Ducati has embarrassed everyone (except Honda) with a bike that has been in development far less time than Suzuki’s. Why can’t the manufacturer of the World’s best four-stroke, open-class sport bike (i.e., the Suzuki GSX-R1000) build a competitive MotoGP four-stroke?
The only team doing worse than Suzuki at this point is Kawasaki, and Kawasaki has even less development time than Ducati (and Kawasaki is running Dunlop tires — let’s face it, a liability for any MotoGP team, at this point). Suzuki has Michelin tires, and plenty of four-stroke engineering prowess (it would seem), but consistently poor results. What gives?
Kenny Roberts went so far as to state his bike was “unrideable” after his embarrassing 15th place finish in South Africa this weekend. Roberts, as we may be forgetting, is a former World champion. His young teammate, John Hopkins, did a bit better at 13th place, but not much.
From reading the comments by Roberts and Hopkins, one would conclude that the most fundamental problem with the Suzuki MotoGP bike is the engine. Peak horsepower is lacking. Indeed, the comments of John Hopkins come to mind regarding his time on the track with the Ducati . . . basically, Hopkins marvelled at how easily, and quickly, the Ducati pulled past him and pulled away, both during recent test sessions and recent race practice sessions.
Ducati and Suzuki both field V-4s, although the Ducati engine has a couple of notable differences. The Ducati is a 90-degree V-4 (with less inherent vibration than the Suzuki — Suzuki runs a narrower-angled V), and the Ducati valves are controlled by Desmodromic action, while Suzuki uses valve springs.
Honda does quite well with a narrow V (although it runs a 5 cylinder, not a 4) and valve springs (rather than desmo), and Yamaha seems to make quite a bit more power than Suzuki with a similar set up.
We are sure that Suzuki will find the key to building a competitive bike, it just makes one wonder what is taking so long. In the meantime, it looks like Honda and Ducati are the bikes to beat in MotoGP.