The first full day of official MotoGP testing at Losail was preceded by the final team launch of 2021, as Suzuki Ecstar presented its title-defender.
Last year’s champions showcased their Monster-branded challenger on the start-finish straight of the Qatar track as Joan Mir and Alex Rins fired up the GSX-RRs for the first time, with the 2020 title-holder running both #36 and #1 detailing on his prized fighter.
“It’s a little bit more aggressive than last year with the Monster logo,” Mir commented.
“We have a good challenge in front of us, that is to defend the title. This year the goal is to fight for the title and [I’m] really looking forward to it. The bike is beautiful, the team is there and also we have a good teammate.
“This new season seems like it will be a thrilling one with a lot of quick contenders. Despite winning last year I don’t consider myself as the ‘favourite’ for this season, because I believe that there is still a lot of work to do and big results to achieve, but nevertheless, I come into 2021 as ‘the man to beat’, and for sure there is some pressure surrounding that.
“Honestly I don’t mind it - I see it as a positive thing because pressure has always given me an extra push rather than holding me back.
“Again it is going to be a strange season with this Covid pandemic and all the travel restrictions, but I do hope that things will go better and better not only for us, the MotoGP family, but also for all our fans around the world.
“I left my GSX-RR last year with very good feelings, the limitations on the development prevented big steps of improvement, but I’m confident that the R&D department in Suzuki and our track engineers and mechanics have found some steps to improve.”
When asked about his difficult 2020 season, Rins continued: “It was a rollercoaster for me for the first injury at the first race, in the middle of the season I was able to recover a little bit but then two crashes, and finally we were able to finish on a good performance.
“Let’s continue to keep this performance this year, let’s see where we are able to be. Happy to be here with all this family, ready to rock.
“I’m so excited, in a couple of hours we will be here at 300 per hour on the straight! Really excited to start, to wear these new colours with the new sponsors, so let’s see.
“All winter I’ve been looking forward to getting back on track! I have done a lot of training, especially with my track bike, but nothing actually beats riding my GSX-RR. I think this year could be a great one for us, we have a strong team and a strong bike.
“We’re more motivated than ever, and we know that our bike is able to win so we’re ready to fight. The calendar is quite full, despite everything, and there are many fast riders, so building a consistent campaign will be the key as always.”
Suzuki’s two race riders were joined in the presentation by test-rider Sylvain Guintoli. The Frenchman, having already undertaken a day of testing at the Doha track, is confident of the development and improvements made ahead the official start to the season.
“Obviously everybody at Suzuki is working flat out to find some improvements. This MotoGP game is all about finding improvements and all about going forward and bringing some better stuff for Joan and for Alex, so they can enjoy riding the bike.
“Everything is going really well, obviously the situation last year was not so easy but everything is clicking into place and all the hard work of Suzuki, all the engineers in Japan, the test team, the riders, the crews is all clicking together.
“It’s fantastic to be part of this project and we are now working for the future, already started working on the 2022 engine, which the first feedback was very promising so we’re very happy and continue to work very hard.”
While the off-season was somewhat dominated by the departure of long-time team boss Davide Brivio, Suzuki’s Project Leader and Team Director, Shinichi Sahara, is confident the enterprise will continue growing from strength to strength in its current form.
“The 2020 was a fantastic season for us, as winning world title for the rider and the team. This 2021 season will be a challenging one for us, as we are aiming to achieve even better result than last year, but I’m confident that we will be able to take on this important role and fight to get great results.
“Due to the Covid restrictions it is going to be another very strange season, and the freezing of the engine development leaves us with fewer areas to adjust and work on, so the level of competition will be just as high as last year.
“For sure we are facing a new era in our team, with the new organisation that we had to put in place: so I will be more present at the races, and I will be supported by all the team members in their respective responsibilities. We have grown a mature and solid team so I am fully confident that together we will find the best way to be efficient and effective.
“Both Joan and Alex have done a lot of winter preparation, they have arrived motivated and determined ahead of this new season, so we will give our 100% to provide them with the best conditions and tools to perform well and fight for top positions.”