MONDAY 11TH JULY 2005
If visiting Suzuki motorcycle planning group leader Tak Hayasaki was unsure about the relative competitiveness of the 2005 spec GSV-R, Sunday's US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca left him in little doubt.
For while Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards were able to prove just what a home advantage could do by claiming a USA one-two, Red Bull Suzuki's own home grown stars - John Hopkins and Kenny Roberts - were left down in eighth and fourteenth, 23secs and 1min 13secs respectively from Hayden's Repsol Honda.
With Hopkins in particular sliding aggressively to record the top finish by a Bridgestone rider, Hayasaki can barely expect more from one of his pilots - and both team-mates were seriously disappointed not to have been able to perform in front of their friends and families.
"I'm disappointed, it's definitely not where we wanted to finish," confirmed Hopper, who had qualified sixth. "I got passed by a few in the beginning and it's so hard to make the passes back. I ended up having to stick where I was, I tried for the longest time to get past Bayliss and it just didn't come along.
"With the higher temperatures we had to use a harder tyre that we hadn't really got on with all weekend and I didn't feel too comfortable on it. I wanted to put on a good show for the fans and I'm sure I did as I was sliding around a lot all race. It's good to see American riders one and two at their home GP, I just wish it was me," he admitted.
Meanwhile, former world champion Roberts had even less positives to take from the weekend, confessing that he's struggling at the moment.
"We couldn't put on a competitive performance whatsoever here and I feel bad for family, friends and fans that had come to watch," he said. "On the other hand this is what racing is about; if you're not competitive it looks real bad and at the moment I'm struggling. We will keep trying, I have a strong team and hopefully we can figure out what's going on with the package and get back to where we want to be."
Surprisingly, Laguna Seca marked Hayasaki's first MotoGP race and he left impressed by the Paul Denning run team and the level of competitiveness in the class - but with no solid promise of being able to provide the much needed performance gains.
"This is the first time I have been to a MotoGP and was very impressed by how well the team works," he said. "It has great organisation and operation and the teamwork is very good, but the competition is very tough here. I realise that we need to get better but the time is so quick and we will have to do everything we can to get a better result.
"This visit is going to be a great asset for me. I have been very impressed with the promotion of the team and the support from Red Bull, but we are definitely looking for better results and I think step by step it's not easy at all. I think we can do it, we will try 100%," he added.
If Denning's post race comments are anything to go by, then Hayasaki will have been told that the teams 'must haves' are more engine torque and tyre grip.
"We are still searching for a bit more torque and more grip," said Denning. "Bridgestone assisted us with the right choice of race tyre which stayed consistent to the end of the race, but maybe didn't have the extra grip that John needed to stay in the mid-24s, which he was capable of doing in the shorter runs during the practice sessions."
Denning also added that he'd like to see Red Bull and Suzuki join forces again in the future: "I'd like to thank Red Bull for partnering us. We gave it 100%, the bike looked awesome and we'd love to get Red Bull and Suzuki together again in the future."
Hopkins, U.S.MotoGP, 2005