MotoGP: Don’t look back, because Iannone and Suzuki are right on your tail

The ever-aggressive Andrea Iannone has easily adapted to the ever-improving Suzuki GSX-RR, and the combination will likely be thorn in the side of Marquez, Vinales, et al

motogp, suzuki, andrea iannone, sepang test 2017, gsx rr, alex rins
Andrea Iannone has quickly and easily adapted his aggressive riding style to the Suzuki GSX-RR, and the combination was on the pace at the Sepang test. The pair will surely be at or near the front end of the MotoGP pack this year.Photo courtesy of Suzuki-racing.com

Andrea Iannone's debut in official Suzuki colors at the Sepang MotoGP test was certainly brilliant. Fifth on the first day, first on the second, 11th on the third, and second just behind Maverick Viñales in the final classification. The combination of the always explosive Italian rider and the increasingly efficient Suzuki GSX-RR looked very good.

If there is one brand that has benefitted from the technical limitations of the spec ECU, it is Suzuki. As the smallest of the Japanese factories, Suzuki has always trailed behind Honda and Yamaha. Every time the two powerhouses were involved in a scuffle and brought to bear all technical and economic resources in an effort to outdo each other, it was always difficult for Suzuki to catch up after the dust settled. This has changed radically with the introduction of standards like spec electronics. And it's beginning to be noticeable.

The feeling upon leaving Sepang is that in the third season after their return to MotoGP, the Hamamatsu factory’s Suzukis are getting ever closer. Without renouncing its virtues—easy to ride and agile—now in 2017 the Suzuki engineers have injected several extra horses into the engine. The occasions in which the GSX-RR was the slowest bike in the category are history. The Suzuki may not be a standout over the other brands in any particular performance attribute, but it’s a competitive, efficient and easy bike to ride.

motogp, suzuki, andrea iannone, sepang test 2017, gsx rr, alex rins
Iannone's enthusiastic all-or-nothing riding style has certainly gelled with the Suzuki GSX-RR, but the Italian will have to dial back his tendency to hit the ground if he is to become a title contender.Photo courtesy of Suzuki-racing.com

In fact, the biggest problem in Malaysia was that the increase in power was outside of the control of the electronic management system. It’s now up to the engineers to adjust to the new performance, something that with the amount of time remaining before the start of the championship shouldn’t be a problem.

Analyzing Sepang, it appears that the biggest handicap with Suzuki this season is the inequality in the level of the riders. Without a second team and a MotoGP rookie teammate in Alex Rins, Iannone will have to shoulder the development workload by himself. And that is never good.

I confess that I'm a fan of Iannone’s aggressive riding style of always attacking. But as I say this, I think that in 2017 he needs to take a step forward in minimizing his number of crashes. At Sepang, Iannone was extremely fast, set the fastest time on day two, but on the third day when he should have sealed his powerful preseason start, he went down twice, finally finishing 11th that day.

In any case, Davide Brivio and the Japanese technicians are happy with how the second generation of the MotoGP project (read: after Viñales) has kicked off. It will be interesting to see what the Iannone / Suzuki duo is capable of at Phillip Island next week.