Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Álex Rins is off to a strong start in 2019. He snagged a fourth-place finish in the season opener in Qatar and followed that up with a fifth-place result in Argentina. He’s the veteran on the team this year, his third in the premier class, as he’s joined by MotoGP rookie Joan Mir, so he’s got a lot on his shoulders in terms of moving the GSX-RR further in development. We caught up with Rins following the first day of free practice at Circuit of The Americas and asked about the areas that still need improvement.
“I think braking area, top speed area, those areas I would like to improve the bike,” Rins explained. “We improve rhythm last year and it’s nice because it’s difficult to improve these things. When you ask can I have more power on the straight, they bring more power on the straight by maybe opening the throttle. More areas of the bike. So we get three, four kilometers per hour on the straight, and on throttle the same. So this is good.
“We try a very fast engine on the straight this preseason in Jerez, but was more aggressive. So they bring a middle engine and was engine we are using now.”
When looking back at the progress over his three years with Suzuki, the bike has come a very long way. Even against the bike from last year, there are marked improvements.
“For example comparing last year, the bike doesn’t change like one second faster, just two- or three-tenths, and this is very important. Now in the race I am able to be three-tenths faster, but three-tenths faster in 20 laps is a lot of time.”
According to Rins, the standout positives of the GSX-RR as it is now are corner speed, drive, and traction. If Suzuki are able to get complement these with better braking and top speed, you can expect to see Rins battling much more frequently in the lead pack.
But advancements may progress slower than with other teams, particularly for the fact that Suzuki only has two bikes on the grid to work with and a new rider in the garage still coming up to speed in MotoGP. One positive, though, is the test rider Suzuki has in Sylvain Guintoli.
“He (Guintoli) is very fast. Our riding style is similar, so this is helping me to try things and all the things I try works good. With a satellite team, will be better for sure. But I am quite happy with Sylvain. Since last year that he start to work with us, the development of the bike changes a lot.”
Rins also offered some insight into the state of the track at COTA, which has become a notoriously bumpy, difficult place to ride. Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten much better.
“The track, it’s getting worse. The bumps are a big problem for us. Worse than last year. They did a very good job in T8 and T9 where they put new asphalt, but the rest of the place is disaster.”
That puts a big hit on confidence, particularly for the fact that on some laps the bike will remain stable in trouble areas, and on some laps it will not. Despite that, and the fact that Rins suffered a massive crash at the circuit previously, it’s still one of his favorite layouts.
One thing Rins doesn’t have to worry about is the atmosphere in the garage. He and Mir are off to a great start, and the atmosphere is positive and supportive.
“It’s perfect. On the team the atmosphere is very good. This is important because we have no fear in the team. It’s like a family, together. It’s nice.”
And when he’s not racing, Rins now calls Andorra home, where he recently moved to help improve his training.
“There in the mountains we have a good altitude. I’m living at 1,000 meters compared to Barcelona (where he was born) I was living at 0, sea level. So this for training is better. It’s like a natural doping.
“I do gym, mountain bike, cycling, road bike. On the winter season we did some ski. Swimming pool. A little bit of motorbike there because it’s a small country and you don’t have a lot of MX tracks for training. So a little bit of everything.”