Rockstar Makita Suzuki Looking To 2011 and Beyond

Henny Ray Abrams | December 27, 2010

The 2011 AMA Pro Road Race Championship began almost immediately after the final race of the season at Barber Motorsports Park. The winning teams went home to celebrate and the losers started working on a plan to unseat the champions.The first iteration of those improvements was on display at the recent Daytona Dunlop tire test. Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes had three motorcycles, all in various states of readiness. When the teams return to Daytona for a follow-up test in mid-January, the best ideas and pieces from those three will be melded into what they hope is a repeat championship winner.A few garages down, the Rockstar Makita Suzuki was beginning their assault on the 2011 title, as well as beyond. With Yoshimura R&D’s Don Sakakura in charge of all of American Suzuki’s racing activities, it’s up to team manager Peter Doyle to formulate and execute a winning plan. That wasn’t difficult when fellow Aussie Mat Mladin was in the saddle. But with Mladin’s retirement at the end of 2009, and the racing budget cut severely by sagging sportbike sales, the team has learned to be more resourceful. If they’re to reclaim the title they owned from 1999 through 2009, with the exception of 2002, they’ll need to work even harder.”I think Peter [Doyle] and the crew that we have have done a great job with that,” Sakakura said. “Really, it relies more heavily on the teams, not the manufacturer support. So, through the years of experience of the staff that we have, with Peter’s ideas, and some of our electronics, I think we’re able to come up with a very competitive package. All the development’s left to us now, so it’s a little bit more exciting.”The team tested a number of components that could make it onto the 2011 race bikes – because they’re unchanged they’ll continue to campaign the 2009 K9 models – and some that won’t. Conspicuous by their presence were a pair of technicians from Penske Racing. The Penske techs had rear shocks they wanted tested and the Yosh team was more than happy to oblige.

“We were asked if we’d test it and we did,” Doyle said of his team, which was the last to switch to Ohlins suspension after years on Showa. “Blake [Young] only did a couple laps on it towards the end of the test. Tommy [Hayden] did quite a bit.”Doyle didn’t get a chance to talk to Hayden, “but from what he said was he didn’t have any negative comments. He said it feels different. He said he’d like to try it at a different racetrack other than Daytona.””It’s definitely different. No question,” Hayden said. “Just the way it works and the character of it. Over the last few years we’ve experimented with some different brands. It’s not the first time. And each time every one has its own character. They didn’t just start from scratch with us. They’ve been doing a lot of testing with some other people. And they have some baselines and could get something similar to what we had to start with. And we tried a couple different things. It’s not too bad really. I would like some more time. It definitely needs some improvement, but just to bolt something in and try it out showed a little bit of potential for sure.”Added Young: “I didn’t end up getting on the Penske shock until later in the day. I just felt track conditions had already kinda slowed up a bit. It was pretty hard to get back to some of those times. So I’d like to give that shock a fair shake when I get a little bit better conditions, for sure.”Hayden also tried different geometry and a vastly different fork spec.”It’s interesting to get here and see where we were and try to figure out how much difference is the track and how much we’ve come with the bike,” he said. Young agreed. “If you look at the bike we had here from the last race to the bike we had at Barber, it was way different. What we ended up with today [which included a different gas tank and shock] was kind of a combination of both. We kinda went back to the race of last year and used some of those things and tried some of the new stuff from Barber and came up with something I got fairly comfortable on. I think the next step is, obviously, when we get the new tire for the next test, I predict we’re going to go way faster and some more problems are going to come out of the bike, so we’ll work on them from there. for today, I feel like we got a pretty good baseline setting for the next test.”The cost of running a team hauler back and forth to California is about $10,000, so Yosh decided to leave the truck in Florida for the month. Any new parts will be either shipped in or brought as checked baggage.”We’ve got a couple of things we’re working on that we tried here,” Doyle began, “that we’re going to go back and actually try to work on them a bit more for both riders. We shared a couple of things between Tommy and Blake. Some engine work on the cylinder head side, different shape. Some new bodywork, which is just material. The bike that had the different gas tank was a test; we’re probably looking down the track a year. We just threw something out there in the off-season when we got bored and we tried it and it’s favorable, actually, but not for what we’re going to do early next year. We’re looking way down the path. We tried some different brake combination stuff. Just little stuff. New front fork setting. Seems to be good. Seems to be a positive for us.”


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.