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Buildbase Suzuki begins British Superbike campaign with Monteblanco test

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The Buildbase Suzuki team’s preparations for the 2019 Bennetts British Superbike Championship began in earnest this week, with Bradley Ray, Richard Cooper, and new recruit Luke Stapleford enjoying three positive days of testing at Circuito Monteblanco.

For Ray and Cooper it was a case of getting reacquainted with their GSX-R1000R machinery. Ray – a BSB race winner in 2019 – spent the opening day getting back up to speed before working through a detailed testing programme, including various maps and tweaks to the electronics.

Cooper, who was also a BSB race-winner in 2019 and dominated the final superbike race at Brands Hatch, returns to Superstock 1000 action this year. The experienced Nottinghamshire rider readjusted to the differences between superbike and superstock machinery before putting the laps in and making subtle adjustments to suspension setup and geometry as he went. After finishing runner-up in the Superstock 1000 championship in 2017 on the then brand new GSX-R1000R, Cooper is aiming to go one better this year.

While he’d enjoyed a preseason shakedown at Cartagena on a superstock-spec GSX-R1000R, Monteblanco gave Stapleford his first taste of the bike in superbike trim. The Leicestershire-based rider and former British Supersport champion – who completed an impressive 78 laps on the final day of testing, more than any other rider – worked on finding a comfortable base setting before focussing on generating more grip and adjusting the chassis and electronics to suit.

Bradley Ray, “It’s good to be back riding again. It’s obviously my third year with the team and the big Suzuki so there’s a degree of familiarity when getting back on the bike for the first time, although it still takes a session or two to settle in. But I felt good. We had a few things to try over the three days and spent quite a bit of time on the electronics again as they play a big part in this game, and just tried to get everything working well together. But we’re not making huge changes. For the first time back on the superbike it felt good, the pace was good and it’s a solid start.”

Richard Cooper, “I feel really good to be fair. We did everything we wanted and needed to do over the three days, and everything’s spot on. Obviously there’s only so many changes you can make to a superstock machine, but we made some changes to the forks and put a different shock in it and went faster each time we made a change, so I’m feeling really positive and really confident. We had good one-lap pace but could also put a good run together. It’s only testing but we’re in a good place.”

Luke Stapleford, “I’d spent a bit of time on a stocker to get used to the GSX-R1000R and just get bike fit again, but it’s obviously different again when you jump on the superbike. That said I don’t think we can be too disappointed with the first test. We spent a bit of time just getting comfortable on the bike and then worked from there. One key area of focus was just generating a bit more grip, so it meant adjusting the chassis and geometry to improve in that area, and the team has worked well. I think we’re in a good place to keep improving at Portimao.”

The Buildbase Suzuki team will continue its testing programme on 17-18 March at Portimao, before the final preseason test at Silverstone on 9 April.

Richard Cooper set for North West 200 debut with Buildbase Suzuki

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Richard Cooper will make his debut at the fonaCAB International North West 200 in association with Nicholl Oils this year – which takes place from 14-18 May in Northern Ireland – riding both Superbike and Superstock GSX-R1000R machinery for the Buildbase Suzuki team.

The experienced Nottinghamshire ace, who is also contesting the National Superstock 1000 Championship with the Buildbase Suzuki team this season, has been eyeing up a road racing debut at the famous event over the years. And while he’ll get the chance in 2019 and is excited at the prospect, the former national champion will head to the event with a sensible attitude and approach.

Richard Cooper, “I’ve been looking at taking this step for a couple of years now to be honest, but I was only going to do it when everything came together to do it and do it properly. The team is vastly experienced on the roads so I know I’ve got a lot of people around me who know what they’re doing and a lot of support, and the North West 200 is an incredible road racing event to be competing in.

“Obviously I think any rider goes somewhere new to compete with an idea of what they can do and what they can achieve, and of course I’ve got targets in my head. But at the same time I’m approaching this with a sensible head on. I’ll be taking my time and learning as much as possible, and we’ll take it step-by-step.”

Cooper won the final British Superbike race of 2018, with a dominant display at Brands Hatch. This season, as well as making his road racing debut, he has his sights firmly set on lifting the 2019 British Superstock title after finishing runner-up on the new GSX-R1000R in 2017.

He added, “While the North West is obviously a big thing for me this year and is a bit of a milestone in my career, the focus is very much on trying to win the Superstock title for the team and for Suzuki. I’ve won it before and nearly won it again a couple of years ago when the bike was brand new. Now the GSX-R1000R has had another year of development under its belt, it finished runner-up again last year, hopefully it’s third time lucky.”

Luke Stapleford and Richard Cooper complete Buildbase Suzuki lineup for 2019

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Buildbase Suzuki has announced that Luke Stapleford will ride the team’s second GSX-R1000R superbike in 2019, partnering Bradley Ray in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, while Richard Cooper remains with the team for another year and will contest the National Superstock 1000 Championship.

Stapleford – who won the British Supersport title in 2015 – will return to the British Superbike paddock after three seasons in the World Supersport Championship. It’ll be the 27-year-old’s first full season on a superbike, however he boasts previous superbike experience having made a number of BSB wildcard appearances in recent years. For 2019 he is looking to build on that experience and develop into regular front-runner in arguably the most competitive domestic series.

He took victory in the final BSB race of 2018 and for 2019 Cooper will remain with the Buildbase Suzuki team for a third season. This year the experienced Nottinghamshire ace will return to the hotly-contested Superstock 1000 championship – a championship he won in 2011 and finished runner-up in in 2017 on the new GSX-R1000R – with the clear aim of fighting for the title.

Luke Stapleford, “I’ve got a good relationship with Steve [Hicken – team manager] and the team, and we’ve worked together before and we know each other well. We’d talked in the past but honestly I was still enjoying riding the 600. But we talked again after last season and I was at a point where I wanted a change from what I was doing in World Supersport – I was riding in a family-run team and honestly it was a lot of effort that took the shine off racing a motorbike a little bit. I’d had a few offers in BSB before, after the title in 2015, but now I feel the timing and the package is right. It’s going to be hard, I know that, but I think we’ll get there. We’ve not set any specific targets so much, and we’re being realistic, but at the same time my goal is to be at the front. It’s going to take time to get up to speed and a lot of hard work, but that’s where we want to be and I know the team and the bike can be there. The feeling in 2015 of winning the British Supersport title is what’s kept me going, and I want the feeling of winning races, and eventually a championship, again.”

Richard Cooper, “The aim this year is the championship, definitely. The GSX-R1000R has finished twice, narrowly, the last two seasons in Superstock, and I want to deliver the team and Suzuki the championship. I had a good end to the year in Superbike and it was good to win the last race of the year, but it’s going to be equally competitive in Superstock in 2019, with some new riders and teams. But I think a good winter, some changes with the team and to the bike, and also my previous experience should give us a head start. This year I want to go out and enjoy my racing again, and hopefully that’ll come with race wins and, fingers crossed, a championship.”

Team manager, Steve Hicken, “We’re going into 2019 feeling really confident with our package and feel we’re in with a very good chance of winning both the British Superbike and Superstock championships; we’ve got a strong rider lineup across the classes and we’re in our third year of development with the GSX-R1000R, which should see us start on the front foot come April.

“Richard Cooper ended 2018 on a high, winning the last superbike race of the year after after strong end to the season. This year our aim is to win the Superstock title and everyone knows he is certainly more than capable. It’s a championship that we’ve finished runner-up in the last two years, and we’re determined to go one better.

“We’re really pleased to welcome Luke Stapleford to the fold this year. We’ve worked with him in the past as a youngster and maintained a good relationship over the years. His talent is unquestionable and has got past superbike experience, which will stand him in good stead. He’s going to have a lot to learn still, and it’s a hugely competitive field this year, but we’re confident he can get up to speed quickly and have a successful season.”

Luke Stapleford, Richard Cooper, and Bradley Ray – who re-signed with the Buildbase Suzuki team after a strong season in 2018 which saw him do the double at the season-opener – will now begin a comprehensive winter testing programme ahead of the season-opening round at Silverstone on 19-21 April.