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GP Week : Issue 196
TESTING, MAYBE MORE, FOR 2014 French GO veteran Randy de Puniet has confirmed he will take a year off GP racing to act as full-time tester for suzuki’s MotoGP project, with the hope of spearheading the Japanese former racing giant’s return to top-level World Championship racing. The Frenchman rode as partner to top CRT rider Aleix Espargaro this year in the leading Aspar team, but had a disappointing season, and his contract was not renewed. But he had already been thrown a lifeline during the season by Suzuki, when he tested their prototype at official IRTA group tests, and also in Japan. Now de Puniet – a GP winner in 250s and rostrum MotoGP finisher on the factory Kawasaki – has confirmed on Facebook that he will spend next year testing the in-line four machine, that he pronounced “ready to race” after tests earlier this year. De Puniet tested a PBM Aprilia at Valencia after the race, but two weeks later announced he would not be racing in MotoGP in 2014 – hoping for “a few surprises” , hinting at wild card appearances as well. One reason was the chance to work with a factory team “with technical staff of the highest standard,” he said. It would be no holiday, he predicted, adding: “My goal is to be able to return to MotoGP in 2015 with the Suzuki team.” Wildcard entries are allowed to race unrestricted electronics, and don’t suffer from restricted engine numbers, making a tempting prospect for Suzuki should they wish to make an early impression. Suzuki followed Honda into GP racing one year later in 1960; the company’s glory years came in the 1970s and 1980s with the hugely successful RG500 square four two-stroke. De Puniet, 33 next February, is the second-most experienced MotoGP rider, with 252 starts. Only Rossi has more, with Valencia being hi 294th. MOTOGP >>> nEWs DE PUNIET SIgNS FOR SUzUkI 12 GPWEEK.com // 12 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: