Tyco Suzuki Team Manager Philip Neill gives an insight into the workings of TAS Racing and the team as it prepares for the upcoming Pro Test this week at Cartagena in Spain.
It has been an eventful off-season for all at Tyco Suzuki: Hopper became a Dad, Josh Waters got married, young Mackenzie became a man officially by turning 21, William Dunlop started training and wait for it…. Guy Martin was voted Britain’s sixth coolest man!
Meanwhile back at the workshop, we did the same thing we do every year: we worked our backsides-off building bikes to the best of our ability with the aim of winning some races this season.
It’s fair to say the first few weeks of the 2014 season will feel a little different with quite a few changes to our rider line-up. Obviously there will be a settling-in period, although for our BSB campaign we have chosen two riders with vast experience with the GSX-R1000 and this, I hope, will make a significant difference to how the season starts for us.
Familiarity is one thing however and we are under no illusions that we need to work hard to ensure we remain competitive in BSB with many great riders on very competitive machinery all wanting the same thing we do.
Hopper is of course our most experienced member and perhaps the highest-profile rider we have partnered with since we began our period in British Superbikes in 2004. I’ve said it before, but John really was the rider we wanted for 2014 and we believe he can be a serious contender for the title this year, although he may perhaps need a few rounds to settle-in after a couple of seasons-out recovering from some injuries.
In Josh Waters we have a rider who I’m confident has not yet shown anything like his best in BSB and our intention is to provide Josh with the tools and surroundings he needs to show everyone what he really can do.
At TAS Racing we seem to have developed a bit of a trend for working with riders from the Southern Hemisphere. It wasn’t really intentional, but hopefully we are now familiar with the difficulties these riders can endure when living and racing 10,000 miles from home.
This is perhaps the area we can best assist Josh in, although after winning multiple Australian Championships riding Suzuki GSX-R machinery, he certainly knows how to ride the bike.
On the technical side, we are receiving significant technical input from Yoshimura for the first time and I must say, it is great to finally have the famous Japanese logo displayed on our race bikes. Yoshimura really is synonymous with Suzuki in my opinion; an iconic brand that we have grown-up with for the past 40 years.
Stewart Johnstone will once again lead the team technically and – with full-assistance from his NME Engineering concern – we are confident our overall package will continue to improve as the season progresses. Stewart will again be supported in the garage by a familiar team in Mark McCarville, Mark McIvor, Phil McLaughlin, ‘Big Dave’ and Sten Johnstone. We are also happy to welcome Leigh Finlay back into the fold and he will share the role of assisting both Josh Waters and William Dunlop throughout the year.
We will continue in British Supersport again in 2014, largely due to the fact that we strongly-believe in Taylor Mackenzie and we want to help advance his career to the next level. We enjoyed a steady first season with Taylor in 2013 and we are both aware that this is a big year for the 21-year-old. We have to believe that podium-finishes are a realistic goal in 2014.
Again there are some strong riders on competitive machinery this season in British Supersport, but the GSX-R600 offers a great all-round package and with Taylor now having a year’s experience on the bike, he should be able to start the season strongly.
For this class we have made a few technical changes during the off-season with the move to Yoshimura and Stewart has some interesting plans to further-develop the bike. Taylor will once again enjoy the experience of having Derek Huxley in his corner. I’m pleased to say that Derek will be assisted this year by a TAS Racing newcomer in Alister Russell: Alister joins both our BSB team and our Road Race team to work together with Taylor in BSS and William Dunlop on the roads; as he has done for several years now.
Not content with a three-rider BSB line-up, we will open our Road Racing season at the Cookstown 100 at the end of April and this will present our first opportunity to work together with William Dunlop.
It is 26 years since the famous Dunlop name brought glory to TAS Racing – or Hector Neill Racing as it was known at the time – and we see no reason why we can’t enjoy this kind of success once again.
William has taken a big step-forward in his approach to racing for 2014. He knows that the hard work he is currently enduring may well be a key factor in the success he enjoys later in the year. It’s no secret that TAS Racing has developed a passion for helping ‘steer’ riders in the direction of their first TT victory – and we will give our best efforts in helping William achieve this success.
Guy Martin is now a familiar face in Tyco Suzuki colours and I believe we share the same respect for each other, which is a significant factor from both sides as we enter our fourth season together.
Guy is obviously one of the biggest characters in racing and we are pleased to have him in our team line-up for another season. The stories about his various antics away from motorcycle racing are entertaining, to say the least, and we are always eager to hear what he plans to do next!
On a serious note though, we have enjoyed some tremendous success with Guy at various events and our challenge remains the same; to help him achieve his first TT victory. We know Guy and the range of GSX-R machinery he will ride are good-enough for the job. However we are under no illusions, we need to work really hard to ensure our package is competitive to give both riders the best possible chance of that coveted TT win.
Another important factor for Guy is the surroundings in the team awning for the 2014 road race campaign will again be familiar, with our BSB personnel joined by Denver Stewart, Ronnie Turk and a few other enthusiastic individuals to help keep everything in-line.
We are extremely pleased and fortunate to once again have the support of Suzuki and Tyco Security Products as our title sponsor, not to mention all our loyal partners, some of whom have been with us from the start: Beacon Security, Talon and Metzeler to mention but a few.
We are also pleased to confirm the arrival of a few new associate partners for 2014, details of which will be released soon. But for now, thanks for staying tuned-in. Last week Guy and William got their first taste of action at a Spanish test with over 350 laps completed between them.
This week the whole team moves on to Cartagena in Spain for Barry Symmons’ Pro Test for four days. It will be the first time we get to work with Hopper and Josh Waters, so it’s going to be enjoyable for the guys – but we also have a lot of hard work to get through.