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What happens to team members when their rider is injured? How to they adapt and adjust to a new routine, and even a different rider sitting on their side of the garage?
With Joan Mir out of action due to his injury, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR deployed Sylvain Guintoli to race in Silverstone. Therefore, JM36’s crew was ‘lent’ to the Test Rider for the British GP. We had a talk with some key team members, who have spent their season working with Joan, to understand what changes are made in the way they tackle a weekend when faced with a new rider. And how the techniques vary when dealing with a well experienced racer, versus their eager young rookie.
Frankie Carchedi - The experience and the workflow
Being the first link between the rider and the team members means that working with different riders is always a big contrast. Frankie Carchedi, Joan's Crew Chief, considers that each rider is unique, has his own way of communicating, his own needs and preferences. "I’ve known Sylvain Guintoli for a while and this helped us to gel quickly, but when you get a different rider you have to switch and try to establish a brand new and very specific connection. Of course the experience of the rider affects the workflow a lot: for example, Joan Mir is a rookie and therefore needs (and likes) to do many laps with the same package and get well into things to understand them; Sylvain has plenty of experience so he needs a lot less time and laps to understand if he likes something or not".
Assuming that every rider has a specific way of working, and specific needs that the team must take care of, in terms of workflow "I didn’t have to change so much during the British GP. We have a pretty consolidated method throughout the sessions, and Sylvain is our Test Rider so he already knew perfectly how we work here at Suzuki".
The experience of the rider affects the workflow a lot: for example, Joan Mir is a rookie and needs to do many laps with the same package to understand them; Sylvain has plenty of experience so he needs a lot less time and laps
Claudio Rainato - How to interpret the rider?
"It’s very interesting to check the data because the electronics can tell you exactly how and where the riding style is different", explains Claudio Rainato, Joan's data engineer. "Sylvain is very different from Joan, for example his vast experience allows him to be smoother on the throttle and this means that in some parts of the track we can afford to give him less support with the traction control. Another characteristic of Sylvain is that he uses the rear brake less. This affects the electronics settings because we have to compensate for this lack of rear brake use with some other forms of support, for example the engine braking or a different setup".
The communication is another crucial thing that changes drastically between two riders. "You have to really learn how to interpret the rider, because the electronics can give information about the behaviour of the bike, but in the end the rider’s words are crucial too. So reading in between the lines of the rider’s comments is really important. An experienced rider can be more precise with his feedback, while a rookie still needs to develop these skills", says Rainato.
"The communication from myself back to the rider is also affected by experience; with Guintoli you can speak less about technicalities because he already knows many things, while with Mir I have to transfer more information to him so that he can better understand and learn what modifications we are applying, and what he can likely expect in the next run".
Reading in between the lines of the rider’s comments is really important. An experienced rider can be more precise with his feedback, while a rookie still needs to develop these skills
Jacques Roca – Ergonomics and safety
Joan's Chief mechanic, Jacques Roca underlines that when you get a new rider in a team, whether it be for a single event or a full season, "the first thing is to fix the ergonomics of the bike to fit his size and needs. This means modifying brake levers and footpegs. Luckily Sylvain and Joan are a pretty similar size, so we had only to adjust the position of the front brake lever, the spring in the rear brake lever and the position of the clutch lever. Then of course we have to modify the settings according to the rider’s needs and preferences, but this is part of the normal job when preparing for a race".
From the mechanics’ perspective, "the work doesn’t change much depending on if you have a full-time Factory Rider or a Test Rider in the box. We have to think of the bike we will deliver to the rider – whoever he is – first of all a machine that is safe, and then hopefully performing well too. This is part of being well experienced professionals in MotoGP, like we all are".
"Then of course we deal with the emotional side too. Joan is “our baby”, he is a rookie and we brought him into MotoGP, so it’s normal that we have a stronger connection with him. Sylvain is an absolute professional and an excellent rider, so it’s a pleasure to work with him also. For me even more, because we are both French so it’s easy to chat using the same language”, concludes.