In the “engine room” of a MotoGP team

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Although it may seem different, motorcycling is a team sport. It’s true that when a rider wins, he’s the only one who climbs the podium, but behind him he has a team that without him he can’t get off the track. A fact that applies to all categories, from amateur competitions to MotoGP.

This rear guard increases in size and resource as the level of competition increases. MotoGP has at this point shone. Because of its size, but especially its organization and sophistication. How one of these macrostructures works, how they are organized and how many people make up them we will see next.… Welcome to the “engine room” of a MotoGP super team.

To compare how a Japanese and European factory is organized and operates, we sit down with Repsol Honda Team and one of Ducati. It helped us understand the organizational differences between a factory with a racing department 11,000 kilometers away and another whose headquarters are a few hours away from where half of the races on the calendar are held. .

The logistics of a MotoGP team cover its organization at the Grand Prix weekend, the transition to the circuits and the repatriation of the personnel that make it up, the maintenance of the group, the assembly and disassembly of its infrastructure, the moving that. infrastructure in the next stage, the supply of fuel, the attention to sponsors and VIPs, the management of non-sporting commitments of pilots, communication … Scary, right?

the tetris game

The team The Repsol Honda moves more than 60 people per GP, a figure that changes depending on engineers sent by Honda from Japan. A number where add 10 people in charge of maintenance and hospitalityalthough this group is independent because it is part of a company subcontracted for this purpose – in Ducati, both numbers are 38 and 15 -.

It’s easy to imagine that bringing so many people from their origins to GGPP and managing their return after the race weekend is a real ‘tetris’ that deserves a lot of tweaking. Especially if, as in the case of Honda, they bring together people from nine nationalities !: Japan, Spain, Germany, Holland, Italy, England, Ireland, Australia and Canada. There must be someone to coordinate your flights, transportation, and lodging in each race. Arrival times at the destination airport must coincide more or less to fill the rental cars that the teams have.

At Le Mans, HRC has 14 cars of various sizes rented, which are differently occupied when arriving at the GP airport, on weekends and on the way home. Because at the GP, the schedule of mechanics, engineers or marketing people is not the same, and there are those who can board a plane on Sunday and Monday.

It’s clear that the coordinator of this part on the Repsol Honda team — they have three people dedicated to repairing and controlling their “engine room”– he is a true juggler, but before each GP each of the more than 60 team members will receive a ‘GP Guide’, which lists who will accompany each ride of each of the cars, and the Mobile number of each team member. So everyone is always located and everyone knows all the time how to find a partner. Finally, according to company policy, Repsol team members sleep in individual rooms, that is, they need to reserve over 60 rooms! with every move.

Logically, this mega movement of people requires good planning. Before the outbreak of COVID -and now with the invasion of Ukraine- trips were closed early, but now usually ended a month and a half before races in Europe. In those held outside of Europe, reservations are closed with more time. At Honda, for example, they rely on some of the agencies that operate the paddock, which, knowing the calendar in advance, blocks the best hotels in Grand Prix areas.

Comparing Honda’s modus operandi to Ducati’s, the scheme used by the Italian brand is remarkable. in your case all team members simultaneously leave on a flight from Bologna to the corresponding city. An approach that is possible because all but two of its members are Italian. They came to Bologna from their places of residence, to travel together. Logistics is easier this way.

The rear of the pilots

Discovering the number of people working directly to optimize a driver’s performance on the track is impressive. Let’s go back to the comparison between Honda and Ducati. At Honda, Marc Márquez Y Pol Espargaro They have the support of a track engineer, a chief mechanic and four box mechanics. They also have an engineer for electronic injection, one for data collection and a suspension technician, provided by Öhlins. In addition, Honda has specialized ground engineers in the areas of chassis, electronics and engines.

The structure on the Ducati is almost identical. In his case, on each side of the box was a group of seven people, including the pilot. He is surrounded by a chief mechanic, five mechanics and an electronic engineer. Behind the box screens are four more engineers who, sitting behind a battery of computers, check in real time the data that is constantly being collected on the bikes that are on the track.

Marketing and Communication

This is what pilots and engineers call “necessary evil”. The former completely ignores this part of their profession, the latter considers it a waste of money. But pilots without sponsorship will not be professionals, and if there is no communication there is no sponsorship; and without sponsorship racing engineers will not be able to fulfill their “fantasies” … And this should be reminded by those responsible for these two areas from time to time to each other.

On the Repsol Honda team four people manage this part, which includes managing the drivers ’agenda – collective interviews, face -to -face interviews, attendance at events with sponsors, events with drivers’ private sponsors, internal filming, etc. -. To a pilot like Marc Marquez, the agenda of the individual interviews is prepared at the beginning of the season and it fills up immediately. In other less requested pilots there is more margin.

The pilot agenda is usually closed fifteen days before the event. GP Thursdays are the days reserved for the media; Fridays and Saturdays are free, except for one of the events where drivers have to be seen within minutes at a soiree of one of the main sponsors. On Sunday they were released from any commitment other than racing.

logistics

We understand through logistics here the management of the movement of material from one GP to another. This transportation starts with dismantling as soon as the MotoGP race is over with everything built into a GP. Depending on the urgency, the trucks leave the same night for their next destination. In the case of Honda, there are eight trucks – four from hospitality – driven by subcontracted professional drivers and covering between 20,000 and 30,000 kilometers per season. Surprisingly few, as a result of their non-return to their headquarters in Barcelona. For economic reasons between GGPP, trucks are parked within the next circuit or at logistics centers designated for this purpose.

Crossing borders also enters into logistics, that is, the import and export of career material. It only affects Aprilia, Ducati and KTM in races outside of Europe, but the transfer of material from and to Japan by Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha makes it consistent for them. Obviously, after many years of participating in the World Championship, they all have customs agencies that know the procedures very well, although as Repsol Honda assured us, “this is what gives us the most pain. . “

The gas

Fuel deserves a particular section, because it is an element that for obvious reasons requires special treatment. At Honda, the competition fuel provided by Repsol first arrives every Wednesday before the GP. This is done through a transportation agency that specializes in this type of freight. For races outside Europe, as special transport is required, shipments are made in advance.

To keep the team’s needs in control, the team and Repsol share a computer file containing stock and the predictions for the following races or training sessions. The The average fuel consumption per GP of the team is about 700 litersan amount that should be multiplied this season by 20 and which should add the preseason and the post-GP training sessions held throughout the preseason. The total number it gives at the end is impressive: over 15,000 liters.

Ducati moves more or less on the same parameters, although in its case the games are bigger because by contract all its satellite teams are obliged to use the fuel supplied by the factory. In Jerez, for example, they have 1,800 liters of fuel and 20 liters of oil.

The responsibility

After discovering the vastness and complexity of a MotoGP team’s “engine room” and imagining the high cost of keeping it operational, one understands the enormous responsibility that rests on the shoulders of those who ultimately have to value all efforts, the pilots.

In this case, the responsibility is understood as the awareness that every GP weekend, on the circuit alone, there are sixty people working for him, and it requires the utmost professionalism from them … That everyone interprets that according to his best belief.

Source: La Verdad

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