Paul Denning - Interview

Suzuki MotoGP team manager and Crescent boss Paul Denning talks Moto2, the purity of 990 GP bikes without traction control and why Capirossi is special

There’s no one thing keeping us from the front

“The Yamaha is the best balanced bike out there. Wherever they go the M1 is quick. It’s user friendly and it looks after its tyres, which is important now that the 800s now are making as much horsepower as the 990s ever did but in a less friendly way. We need to continue to work on this but we’re close. At Catalunya the two Fiat Yamahas, Casey Stoner and Dovizioso’s factory Honda were ahead of us. There’s no single thing keeping up us from the level Lorenzo and Rossi are riding at, but a lot of it’s about giving your riders the confidence to go to beyond the limit, as those two clearly are. This season’s proving frustrating. Those in the know can see we’ve got a good package but we’re still in fifth place, and you can’t use that in an advert.”

MotoGP is 30% too expensive

“Changing a few hotels or flying economy for the long-haul flights isn’t going to make a difference – we do that already. The big difference will come with changes to the technical regulations. The engines are so specialist now. They’re more advanced than F1 engines because F1 is very, very closely regulated. MotoGP engines are completely free and to be competitive the manufacturers have to take advantage of that. The rule from Czechoslovakia onwards, whereby you can only use five engines for the rest of the season, together with the restrictions next season will mean big savings. Will they become less powerful? Hopefully they’ll be faster and tougher but not everyone will achieve that.”

MotoGP should have stayed 990cc

“Dorna feels that and a large number of people in the championship feel that too. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and at the time there were reasons to consider a reduction in speed; Daijiro Kato’s accident was inevitably a big catalyst in that. Nobody knew that when we put an 800cc engine in we’d go half a second quicker around Valencia in the first test, or that now that the power outputs have caught up, you’ve got increased agility and just as much performance in a package that’s harder to ride. Looking back there were better ways of doing it. Things will change again.”

Loris wants to kill everyone

“He’s just one of us, he’s a motorcyclist. If he’s not on his Grand Prix bike he’s out on his trials bike in the mountains around Monaco. His enthusiasm for racing, for training and for working really hard is as strong as ever. No rider can get off a bike and tell the factory the bike needs X amount more yaw stiffness or, Y amount less torsional stiffness. What they can do is describe in extreme detail what they feel and what they’d like to feel, and in that respect Loris is fantastic. The factory trusts him absolutely with everything and it’s been proven time and time again that the direction he’s asked for has been the right one to pursue. Sometimes when a rider gets to this stage of their career that’s all they’re about, but Loris still has a thirst for competition – when the lights go out he wants to kill everyone.”

Jorge Lorenzo’s misunderstood

“If I had to use one word to describe Jorge from what little I know of him I’d say he’s misunderstood. He’s a bit different. He’d like to be an actor if he wasn’t racing motorbikes and he’s quite an expressive individual – he doesn’t mind getting naked on his website and all that stuff. But at the end of the day he’s friendly, polite and not stuffed up his own backside at all. He lets his riding do the talking and he’s approached this season very cleverly, always under-promising and over-delivering. You know full well he’s out there to win but he’s keeping his mouth shut and doing it, which is impressive – too often it’s the other way round. He’s got plenty of time to turn into a fuckwit and it’s easy to do – when you’re young and you’ve got 120,000 crazed fans hollering your name it’s difficult not to turn into an arsehole.”

250GPs were brilliant. But Moto2 is better

“It’s so simple for me. It’s taking a series in which six bikes are capable of winning to one in which forty bikes will be capable of winning. The best riders are still at the front, winning with the best teams, but the gaps will be a lot smaller. The differences between your £1million-a year leased Aprilia and your £300,000-a-year leased Aprilia are massive – you couldn’t win with the cheaper one. 250s have been fantastic but this is a positive change.”

Can anything be done to help Brits reach the top?

“Moto2 will make the transition easier for guys like Eugene Laverty, a lad that got involved in 250GPs for all the right reasons but who, on a second rate motorcycle, didn’t stand a chance. Bradley Smith and the other Brits in 125s will be in a good position too.”

Forget a GSV-R road bike, we need a Suzuki tourer

“While the likes of you or I may not be interested in a CBR125 rival, they’re the bikes producing the CBR600RR riders of the future. When I was 16 I had an AP50 and TS50, tuned to the hilt, and I became a Suzuki person. The kids with the RDs became Yamaha people. It’d also be nice to see a proper Suzuki touring machine to take on the Pan European. There are customers who go from a GSX-R1000 to a Hayabusa and in the end they want to be on the equivalent of a Pan. As for a MotoGP bike on the road, I can’t see it – the costs for such low volumes are just too difficult.”

Suzuki’s test track is terrifying

“The test riders over there need to earn ten times what they earn, fucking hell. It’s not right. Our Grand Prix riders have seen the track (the notoriously fast, bumpy and run off-free Ryuyo) and their mouths just fell open. It’s not a great test track for the GSV-R but for a road bike it’s perfect, certainly I think the GSX-Rs’ biggest advantage over the competition is that they’re just so planted – the CBR and the Yamaha can feel quite flighty by comparison.”

Me? Race a GSV-R? You’ve got to be joking

“You only need to go to a Grand Prix and witness the sheer commitment they’re riding with now to know that’s a bad idea – the entry and mid-corner speeds are just ridiculous. Anyone out there riding at my level would be dangerous. But I’d love to ride one at a test, just to see what it’s like. I’m trying to make that happen.”

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