By Christian Tiburtius
An exclusive interview with Marcel Duinker, crew chief for World Superbike title contender Tom Sykes at the Kawasaki Racing Team...
Do you ride a motorbike?
I used to, my Dad had a Honda dealership for his whole life. I grew up on one of the islands in the north of Holland, my Dad had a dealership there and I grew up around motorcycles.
From my Dad's shop, when I was 18, I went to Honda Netherlands to work in their workshop for my school practice and the year afterwards Honda introduced me to 125 GPs. I was Aoki's mechanic and we won the title that year.
After that I went to study Automotive engineering and then joined the Ten Kate team. After a couple of other teams I then went to MotoGP in 2005 and I was in Ichiro Yoda's factory Kawasaki team for 5 years, including the Hayate season. There I had the role of suspension engineer.
I was never a racer, I just rode my bike on the road and sometimes did track days. I never felt the need to ride competitively and it's not something I'd like to do. I don't think I have any talent in that way. Also I have to say that any riding I did do doesn't help me in this job.
Can you describe your role in this team?
I'm Tom Syke's crew chief. I don't touch the bike I just try to make sure that it is set up as well as possible. I'm the ultimate authority around Tom Sykes, I make the final decision. We've got a couple of mechanics, a couple of technicians, people for the electronics, engine, suspension and tyres who all have specific areas of expertise, but I make the final decision and I also have the final responsibility.
When the rider comes in from the track, various people may gather around them but the rider only speaks to me, I don't like there to be any confusion, if other opinions are expressed, then the rider starts to think about the wrong things, he just needs to think about his performance and feedback; I will decide what needs to be done. Anything else may lead to confusion and a confused rider doesn't open the throttle. This has got nothing to do with being selfish or egotistical, it's just how to manage the rider. I keep it one to one to avoid confusion and keep focus.
If something is needed from someone in the team then it will be me who asks. I have quite some experience in fields such as suspension and set up so those decisions will also come from me.
Next to me I have Danilo Casonato who is a very high level electronic engineer and I know that I can just let him do his job without any input. We've been sitting next to each other since 2005 and we don't even need to speak, sometimes we only exchange 5 words in a whole working day, our relationship is almost telepathic.