While several top British Supersport teams are still finalising their rider line-ups Irish-based TAS Suzuki have already got a two-day test in Valencia under their belts. MCN caught up with team owner Phillip Neill to discuss how new signing Michael Laverty got with their GSX-R600.
MCN: How did Michael adapt to a supersport machine after having spent the last two years in BSB?
Neill: It was a good test but if we’re totally honest he found the adaptation a bit harder than he expected and will need a bit more time on the bike before he’s 100% comfortable.
But we did throw him in the deep end a bit. He’d never even sat on the bike before we got to Valencia and he was expected to ride around with the WSS guys.
But he wasn’t that far off the pace of riders like Fabien Foret and Pere Riba and speed-wise our bike was very strong.
MCN: So where was Michael struggling?
Neill: Adapting to the higher corner speeds of the 600s. We talked about it before we went and knew it would be different compared to a superbike.
It was four years since he’d ridden a four-cylinder supersport bike and four years since he’d been on Pirellis.
He was pretty impressed with the high-revving engines but got a bit of a shock when he came into the pits the first time and we told him he had another 1500rpm to play with. He’d only been revving it to 14,000rpm!
MCN: Was it simply a case of getting him acquainted with the bike or did you actually test stuff?
Neill: Michael had a busy time. He did 160 laps and tried lots of different set-ups. The idea was to discover just how different his riding style was to Tom Sykes (TAS’s previous BSS number one rider).
MCN: So how different are their styles?
Neill: Very different. Michel went for a harder front tyre and softer suspension – the complete opposite to Tom.
Tom rushes into corners and is a very aggressive rider Michael is much smoother and likes to run higher corner speed. So actually Michael is very much suited to a supersport machine where Tom’s, I’m sure, will be very good on a superbike.
But Michael’s size will also help him on a 600 – he’s 14kg lighter than Tom and much more aerodynamic on the machine.
That, along with his smooth riding style, has got to help. This season we worked out that the package of Tom and our bike was 16kg heavier than Eugene Laverty and the Honda.
I think that when Michael’s adapted to the bike and the tyres, then it should pay off handsomely.
MCN: Was Michael riding a 2006 bike or a new 2007?
Neill: It was a 2006 bike but with some revisions. We tried different suspension – different product – and two exhausts systems.
Again, different product but I don’t want to say anymore than that. We’re expecting our 2007 bikes to arrive next week but there’s nothing significantly different so our race bikes will undergo an evolution rather than a totally revamp for next year.
MCN: When’s your next test?
Neill: We’re waiting to hear whether Pirelli are going ahead with a test in South Africa in January.
If so, then that will be our next test outside of the UK. But in the meantime we’ll keep any eye on the weather and get out when ever we can to give Michael as much time on the bike as possible before next season.