While sometimes they make us wonder, they are still imperfect beings like the rest of us mortals. I’m starting off this story so strongly because in all the years I’ve been following races (which are many) I would have fingers left to count the number of times a rider has admitted to not being at 100%. Other mortals have good days and bad days, but riders never seem to. And that’s when “the tires aren’t working,” “the asphalt has no grip,” “the bike is slow,“ and all the other explanations we have heard so many times. Most of the time they are true, but there are times when one doesn’t own up to their own limitations.
Other mortals have good days and bad days, but riders never seem to. And that’s when “the tires aren’t working,” “the asphalt has no grip,” “the bike is slow” …
At the last GP in the Czech Republic, a certain MotoGP rider finished the race well behind expectations. “I had no traction in the corners,” he explained to the team after the race. The complaint was taken as truth. However, when the technicians went to find why this unexpected glitch was happening, the telemetry showed something different from what their rider said. Instead of a lack of traction, they saw a series of braking errors and cornering that ended up conditioning the start. Obviously they let him know and tried to explain what really had happned. But the rider did not like that the team refuted him and ended saying … “I was the one riding the bike; I know what I was feeling. What telemetry says doesn’t matter to me.”
Former riders are the only ones who riders recognize as an equal and who they allow to look them in the eye and say “no, don’t make excuses.”
It’s this type of situation, and they are not at all exceptional in the World Championship, when a former rider’s presence in the box essential. Why? Because he is the only one who the rider recognizes as an equal and who he will allow to look him in the eye and say “no, don’t make excuses, it’s not the motorcycle, the tires, or the asphalt – it’s you.” To any other person, chief mechanic, engineer or team manager, the rider will accuse him of not trusting his “feel”.
Davide Tardozzi, current manager of the Ducati MotoGP team, is the best example of this role model. He has a reputation for having a direct character with the riders he works with. His words with Jorge Lorenzo last year, when he thought the Spaniard wasn’t giving all what he had, reached very high tones. Today, Tardozzi is the first to underline Lorenzo’s actual superb performance and the rider respects him without rancour.
Not all ex riders are valid to do the job. He must have personality to look straight into the rider’s eyes and tell him what he probably doesn’t want to hear.
Alberto Puig, Dani Pedrosa’s former manager and now in command of Team Repsol Honda has this same profile. And even Emilio Alzamora, Marquez’ mánager, reads Marc the riot act if necessary; so does Mike Leitner with the riders he has under command in the KTM factory team. Definitely the presence of a former rider in the garages of MotoGP teams is very important to avoid that riders grow too powerful or generate confusion, as is currently the case in certain MotoGP boxes… I think we all could write a list of some?
But not all ex riders are valid to do the job. He must have personality to look straight into the rider’s eyes and tell him what he probably doesn’t want to hear. To be able to do so it is fundamental that his job does not depend on the rider. Former riders employed by active riders there are many and in most cases their role ends up becoming the biggest “admirer”, if not flattering, of his employer… We also could write a list of them, couldn’t we?