Can Alex Rins deliver Suzuki its first MotoGP title since 2000?

It's been a long time since Suzuki celebrated a grand prix world title but after securing Alex Rins for two more years, its chances are looking better...

Alex Rins - Suzuki Ecstar

The news that Alex Rins has put pen to paper on a new two-year deal with Suzuki in MotoGP shouldn’t have come as a surprise despite the best efforts of Ducati to lure him into their fold.

Though grand prix racing can’t move for the dozens of talented Spaniards coming up through the ranks, Rins has been among the cream to rise to the top. Better still, he has done so by having faith that Suzuki – a team that took a punt on signing and nurturing him - can finally get on terms with Honda, Yamaha and Ducati by battling for the title.

Indeed, though Suzuki’s MotoGP participation has been more sporadic than its rivals, it has still been a long time since it triumphed in the premier class. Indeed, so long in fact that technically it hasn’t won a MotoGP title as yet.

Its last premier class success came back in 2000 with Kenny Roberts Jr riding a two-stroke 500GP machine, while before that it was Kevin Schwantz in 1993 and Franco Uncini all the way back to 1982. Then of course there was Barry Sheene in 1976 and 1977.

In short, Marc Marquez has won as many MotoGP titles as Suzuki has ever won in 500GP/MotoGP.

However, there are signs that is now clawing itself onto the same pedestal as those aforementioned rivals, first with inspired rookie signing Maverick Vinales and now with Rins.

Pre-season testing revealed Suzuki has made a breakthrough with its GSX-RR, a machine that was quick in bursts during 2019 – enough to secure two victories – but somewhat lacking in certain areas.

Closest in ethos to the Yamaha, it shared many of the same traits in that it’s not quick enough in a straight line but under braking and cornering it has the measure of Honda and Ducati. During testing, not only did the Suzuki look quicker in all areas, but it was demonstrating race pace on a par with Vinales’ more evolved M1.

Of course, we may have a while to find out whether this shakes out in wheel-to-wheel racing, but when rivals are branding Suzuki and Rins as the pairing to watch, there has to be some weight to it.

Can Alex Rins challenge for a world championship?

For sure, because of the leading riders – perhaps with the exception of Fabio Quartararo – there seems to be more to come from the Spaniard.

With two wins and fourth in the overall standings, the headline stats from Rins’ 2019 campaign look impressive but they don’t tell the whole story.

While there are no points for Saturday, Rins’ qualifying record in 2019 left a lot to be desired. An issue with the Suzuki being unable to getting the most of its tyres over a single lap, Rins regularly found himself having to take part in Q1 for a hope of challenging for pole position.

In fact, he never got close to the top spot with his best starting position – and sole front row start – being a third place at Assen. From 19 races, Rins’ average grid position in 2019 was ninth.

On the flip side though, there lowly starting positions did amplify some stellar race day efforts with his maiden victory in the USA coming from seventh on the grid, while he climbed ninth to second in Jerez and 13th to fourth in Mugello.

Had he not suffered two crashes from strong positions in Assen and Sachsenring, Rins wouldn’t have been so far off the Andrea Dovizioso’s runners-up spot.

For the most part though Rins is clearly a Sunday rider, so with room to improve in qualifying and a more competitive machine beneath him, there appears to be untapped potential.

Alex Rins: Suzuki ambassador

While the offer from Ducati would always be tempting, with so many riders on their books vying for attention from company bosses, Rins benefits more from the more compact, focused set up at Suzuki.

The Japanese firm has resisted the temptation to stretch its resources to include a satellite team, instead choosing to focus on Rins and Joan Mir, another Spanish rider cut from a similar cloth and tipped for great things.

As the defined #1 in the team and only one team-mate to worry about, Rins has access to everything Suzuki has available for him. Arguably only Marc Marquez enjoys that much attention from a manufacturer in MotoGP.

With two more years to build upon this, it may not be long until Suzuki can reclaim that long lost crown.