The riders are the stars, but MotoGP is a team sport. Without a tireless team of devoted mechanics the bikes wouldn’t even make it to the grid, but what really goes on behind the scenes?
A rider is only as good as the materials at his disposal and, for the San Carlo Honda Gresini MotoGP duo, that means Honda, Castrol and a crack team of world-class engineers. So where does it all come together?The Gresini mechanics are at the top of their game, and an immaculate pit garage is the centre of their world when they’re at the track. This hive of activity has more in common with an operating theatre than a high-street service centre.
Polished tools and spotless work surfaces gleam as bright halogen strip lights hover above the four RC212V bikes perched on work stands. Dotted around the garage are stands full of Castrol products – everything from engine oil to chain lube racing.
Measuring around 90 square metres, the average MotoGP pit garage houses four motorcycles (a first and a second for each rider); two banks of computers; up to 10 mechanics and enough spare parts, Castrol lubricants, tyres and tools to last the course of an entire race weekend.
This allows the mechanics to do a raft of different tasks from oil and brake fluid changes – using Castrol’s race-ready engine oil and fully synthetic brake fluid – to fork overhauls and engine changes. During pre-season tests all four of the bikes are entirely stripped down and rebuilt before they even touch the asphalt, all within the confines of the pit garage.
Organisation is therefore paramount to the operation if the mechanics are to be able to keep everything running smoothly under the stress of race conditions.
“The most important thing about a MotoGP garage is, of course, the bike,” explains Gresini Chief Mechnic Antonio Jimenez. “Everything must be clean and perfectly ordered. The bike must be perfect and, for that to happen, the garage must also be perfect.
“The rider must be able to go out with complete confidence in his bike, and that can only come from the mechanics and the garage. The performance and the safety of the bike must be guaranteed, and that all starts with the mechanics’ working conditions.”
The tools and ancillary products are the mechanics’ surgical instruments. They are of the highest quality and kept in pristine condition. Gresini’s pit crew are able to instantly lay their hands on every piece of garage equipment imaginable from a two millimetre screwdriver to a two kilogramme hammer. There is also equipment that would be unrecognisable to anyone outside the team, used for working on custom-built parts, such as the gearbox or oil filter.
Meanwhile, many of the Castrol products are instantly recognisable, and identical to what can be found on the high street. Among others, the fork oil, silicon spray and gear oil used by the San Carlo Gresini team can all be bought by road-going consumers off the shelf.
Along with the tools, numerous sets of wet and dry tyres and electronics equipment, litres of Castrol lubricants also have to be shipped to the 18 races of the MotoGP season. For the mechanics to be able to properly focus on working on the bikes, the garage must be identical wherever they are in the world.
“The layout is always the same,” says Jimenez. “We have one side for each rider and always the number one bike nearest the front of the garage and the number two bike behind. The benches on either side hold the tool draws below them, which are also always laid out the same. For example we always have the spanners in the same draw sorted by size, the torque wrenches in another.”
There is an unspoken rule that nothing is left out when not being used. You will never see anything left on the floor, and, when the Gresini mechanics are working, even a clean oil tray can double as a temporary toolbox.
With one set of bikes and mechanics on each side of the garage, all four bikes can be worked on simultaneously and that also means that any mechanic can work on any bike, and instantly lay his hands on the tools he needs. At the end of the work benches which frame the entire garage, there are two air compressors, complete with digital readouts that allow the tyre technicians to inflate the tyres with absolute precision.
Behind the main work area there is a computer work station on each side, onto which the Gresini data engineers will download an astonishing 150 different datasets per bike each time they take to the track. Combined with the riders feedback, this telemetry gives the pit crew a complete picture of the bike’s performance and allows them to make minute adjustments to achieve the right set-up.
The most striking thing about the Gresini garage is that, even when there is a buzz of activity around all four bikes, it is always immaculate. This cleanliness is as essential as good organisation. Any contamination in the engines, brakes, forks or fluids could compromise safety and performance. The entire garage is spotless. There aren’t many mechanics who would be able to get away with wearing white shirts...
“A clean garage is a reflection of a mechanic who works in the right way,” says Jimenez. “To win the race, and to even get to the start line, the rider must have great help behind him to set up the machine and to give him the confidence that this is the best bike he can be on.
“The people who work in this garage work for passion and for them to do their best and feel satisfied with their work, the garage must always be perfect.”
A perfect garage is an essential step towards running a perfect team, and without such meticulous attention to detail, the San Carlo Honda Gresini riders wouldn’t stand a chance of getting to the top step of the podium.