British Superbikes: Rizla Suzuki boss reflects on Calafat test

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Rizla Suzuki completed three days of testing at Calafat last week with Tom Sykes and Atsushi Watanabe. spoke to team manager Jack Valentine to get the low down.

MCN: What spec of bikes did you take to Calafat?

Jack Valentine: We had the 2007 bikes with 2008-spec engines, primarily to get some mileage to check the durability of the stock internal components, we have to use now under the new supersport-type engine rules.

We also had new Showa suspension to test and some routine stuff like new radiators, engine-management refinements.

MCN: Rizla Suzuki had the capacity to run traction control last year but didn’t race with it. Were you working with that in Calafat?

Jack Valentine: Yes. We did have a form of traction control in 2007 but now we’re perfecting it so we can race with a full traction control system in 2008.

We’re still with Motec and have brought Mikka Suominen on board (who worked with Rizla in 2006 and with Team NB last year). He knows the system inside out.

MCN: Why the switch to Showa from the Ohlins you used last year?

Jack Valentine: There’s nothing wrong with Ohlins. It’s a very good product but by using Showa it brings us in line with the rest of the official Suzuki race teams in other superbike championship: Alstare in WSB, American Suzuki in AMA and Yoshimura in JSB.

We’ve got full factory stuff and will have a factory technician assigned to the team.

MCN: So how did Atsushi get on, first time out on-track with Rizla Suzuki?

Jack Valentine: Very well. The Calafat track is quite bumpy, with lots of ripples across the corners. So it was a bit like a BSB track in many ways.

Atsushi wasn’t sued to that. Most of the tracks in Japan are quite smoothly surfaced so he wasn’t used to trying to find a compromise chassis set-up that. But he rode extremely well and fitted in perfectly with the team.

MCN: What did he say about the bike?

Jack Valentine: He was impressed with the stroke power and the way it delivered the power. He also said the engine braking system we run was more consistent that he’s been used to.

He’s run Showa all year on his Yosh bike but was on Bridgestones. So riding on Dunlops was new to him. He’s going to have another learning curve coming when we test next time with Pirellis!

MCN: How about Tom Sykes? He was on lap record pace when you tested at Mallory a while back. And he was on record pace again in Spain.

Jack Valentine: Very impressive again. He felt more at home on the track than Atsushi but had to acclimatise to the Showa suspension and got comfortable with them very quickly.

We were also trying different engine braking set-ups and various chassis changes on his bike to get an understanding how it all works.

The test was meant to be a shakedown to get them both comfortable but we actually achieved a lot more than we expected. I’m really proud of how the team worked, especially since there was the added pressure of a large number of Japanese technical staff there to oversee our progress.

MCN: So what’s the next move?

Jack Valentine: We’ll build the full 2008-spec bikes incorporating everything form the tests so far. We’re back at Calafat in the New Year, when we’ll run on Pirelli tyres for the first time.

Gary Pinchin

By Gary Pinchin