I’ve had the privilege to go behind the closed doors of some British Superbike team workshops this past couple of weeks, namely Relentless Suzuki, Cresent Suzuki, and Rob Mac Racing Yamaha and it’s fascinating to see the 2009 bikes gradually coming together.
Two weeks ago the Relentless by TAS team were still waiting on swing-arms and suspension parts so their bike was literally the 2009 frame loop and engine with 2008 stuff hanging off it purely for measurement purposes (and MCN pictures!).
By now their kit will have arrived so they’ll be well on with assembling the bike, if they haven’t already finished it. Despite the lack of chassis kit they were already well on with engine development.
A week later I went to Crescent Suzuki and their bike was sat on the bench, looking very prototype but virtually ready for testing.
It had a stock tank, the swing-arm was just a modified stocker but it was a complete motorcycle, ready to be loaded into the back of the truck to take to Calafat, Spain for a shakedown.
Guintoli got a few laps at Brands on the 2008 so at least he’s got something to compare the new bike against.
Crescent was even ready to go testing pre-Christmas but Suzuki put the block on in since the bike was built from a pre-production machine.
But it shows just how sharp Jack Valentine’s outfit are and their recent three day Calafat test (cut to two by bad weather) shows how far ahead of the game they are.
It’s interesting to compare the two Suzuki teams. TAS have stepped up to a two-man superbike team, Crescent, having lost their Rizla backing have scaled back to just Guintoli and that’s given them even more focus than before.
But I’m not saying TAS have any less. It’s just the two teams go about their business in very different ways.
In recent years TAS have always had a big team, chasing success in the major road races (North West, Isle of Man TT and Ulster GP) as well as on the short circuits – and won major honours in both fields of battle.
This year’s team is huge with Ian Lowry and Atsushi Watanabe in BSB, BJ Toal in BSS and Aussie Cameron Donald in superstock. And Kiwi ace Bruce Anstey will join Donald for the roads assault.
TAS have to get their heads around the huge catalogue of factory parts, Crescent already have experience of what works best in BSB.
But the under-rated TAS team (under-rated in BSB terms – not in supersport and certainly not on the roads!), on the other hand, did a damn fine job last year in their rookie BSB season, developing their bike in-house.
Factory support is just going to make them even better.
I was at Rob McElnea’s workshop a few days later and got a shock to see a complete bike, less bodywork on the bench.
Only six days earlier I’d been there for the annual Rob Mac Racing Scunthorpe Iron Man mountain bike challenge (won by Graeme Gowland) and all I saw of the 2009 R1 race bike was some K-Tech forks and few ancillary chassis brackets.
We joked that they hid the bike around the corner when I was there earlier. The reason they’ve achieved so much in a week is mainly down to the racing mechanic ethos of 24/7 commitment!
All the bike lacked was bodywork, which was off being painted for a planned team launch this week at Motorpoint’s Derby HQ (subsequently cancelled due to the snow!).
They’re well into engine development, having logged hours of dyno time since the bike arrived at the beginning of January and while I was there were expecting delivery of the fourth spec of camshaft design and were already on spec two of their Akrapovic exhaust spec.
And the other top BSB teams? For GSE Racing the method of building race bikes from roadsters is totally alien., having raced factory Dcuatis for several years that arrived from Italy, ready to roll.
So far, we’ve not visited their lavish new workshop in Burton on Trent to check on progress on their new R1s but you team boss Colin Wright reports that his crew are flat out as usual.
HM Plant Honda’s crates full of HRC goodies to bolt to their Fireblades recently arrived as part of an on-going development programme but they are building just one bike per rider this year (much in the way of the old Red Bull team when they ran Jonathan Rea).
MSS Colchester Kawasaki boss Nick Morgan tells me that while his team is busy, there’s no drama since they have no plans to go testing until the end of March – but then again neither do most of his rivals.
The MSS KR Racing linkages, Feb Tech swing-arms, new Marelli electronics etc are all expected anytime. Oh and they are building two bikes per rider this year rather than one per rider and one spare.
BSB is busy even if testing doesn’t start in earnest until the end of March.
You can read the Crescent Suzuki tech story in MCN next Wednesday.