Ahead of his Suzuka 8 Hours participation and following several months of important MotoGP tests with Suzuki, motogp.com caught up with Frenchman Randy de Puniet.
Suzuki has tested this year at several Grand Prix venues. What is next in terms of the testing schedule?
"We took part in winter tests in Sepang. In Austin and Argentina, unfortunately I couldn’t ride, but I did in Philip Island and also in Barcelona. The schedule is different in July, I am preparing for the Suzuka 8 Hours at the end of the month. My MotoGP program will start again in September, which leaves an important break.
Then, we are supposed to be in Mugello, Aragon and Valencia. A wildcard is pretty likely â we’ll give it a shot in Valencia in October. In August, a test in Brno was planned, but it has been cancelled and replaced by the one in Philip Island. This is why I accepted the opportunity to participate in the Suzuka 8 Hours, in order to go on riding, try a different bike and have at least one race this season."
What particular elements has the development of the Suzuki focused on?
"We have mostly worked on the electronics recently. We went from the Mitsubishi ECU to the Magnetti Marelli ECU at Sepang 1. There’s a lot to do on this point because even when the bike is not on track, the Japanese engineers keep on working on it to smooth the edges. We’ve made important progress, but it is difficult to define my exact feeling about the bike because I have always been riding in different conditions from one test to the other. When there is no base or reference, there is nothing to compare with, and it is hard to evaluate the progress."
As you are working especially on the electronics, does it mean the bike is already in good shape in terms of frame and engine?
"The bike is ready, but again, it is hard to evaluate its potential now. I think the bases are really good, but in terms of pure power, I don’t know where we stand. We need it to be ridden more by other riders to be able to compare, and progress even more."
Besides the urge to keep on riding during the break, how did you come to be taking part in the Suzuka 8 Hours event?
"Firstly, I love the track there. It is a legendary race and a very important one for Suzuki. I think we now have a team fully able to win this race. This is why I will do my utmost to adapt to the bike and get ready for a victory. To win the Suzuka 8 Hours would be a real accomplishment for me in this quiet season."
Whether you ride with Suzuki in MotoGP next season or not, what other options would you have?
"A contract with Suzuki is ready for me, as a test rider or somewhere else. I can choose to accept it or not. This is why we would like to be informed of their plans for the future as soon as possible, because I really want to go back to competition, but not in poor conditions. For now, my main objective is going back to MotoGP. If there is an option in Superbikes, why not, but I really aim at being on the MotoGP starting grid in 2015."