8 August 2013
Marcel Duinker (Tom Sykes’ crew chief) - Q&A
I'm also involved in the back of the garage because I have experience from some incredible environments such as a factory MotoGP team, which is an excellent place to grow in racing expertise.
When I was a suspension engineer in MotoGP I was working with some excellent crew chiefs. I always watched over their shoulder as to what I thought they were doing well and what not so well. I kept this analysis with me in case I became a crew chief in the future - I spent those years waiting, learning and analyzing. I learned a lot in those years and am putting that to use now.
One area in which the Kawasaki team contrasts with others is that we only have two people involved in the set-up of the bike, Danilo and myself, I believe that other teams have many more parties directly involved.
Ultimately I was one of the two lucky guys who moved to the Superbike project, the other was Danilo. Halfway through 2009 my Japanese boss, Mr Yoda [Kawasaki race director], said he'd like me to move to Superbikes so I knew where I was going quite early. It helped that I had a quite good personal relationship with Chris Vermeulen and he lived close to me in Belgium at the time, I was supposed to work with him.
I'm employed by Kawasaki directly.
How long will you work today (Friday at the Silverstone WSBK round)?
Unfortunately today we destroyed a bike so it could be 11 or 12pm. I don't work as hard physically as the mechanics, my role is different, but I will always be there until the end. I am there until the last bolt is tightened and the engine is started. That is also part of my responsibility and then I can also be sure that everything is OK.
After the race, I fly home and they fly to the workshop, that's different, but on a race weekend it's like this.
When you took over responsibility for the factory Kawasaki team from the previous team owner there was quite a jump in performance, why was that?
The bike we were using is the same physical machine, Kawasaki have consistently developed and improved it though.
I started working with Tom Sykes in the winter of 2011. As I mentioned I had at first been assigned to be Chris Vermeulen's crew chief but because of his injury I wasn't able to do my job properly - it was a shame. Even though I didn't have a specific job because of Chris' injury, I went to every race meeting and I was consistently monitoring and analysing how they were setting the bike up.
So once I started working with Tom I swept away the bike he was riding totally. I didn't use any historical settings from Tom's bike, I started from zero, from the settings of the bike when it was created. I didn't want to continue with a number of settings I didn't agree with. Because of my analysis I already had a great number of directions I wanted to work in.
The improvement came purely in the bike set up. I heard people often say that we must have got a new bike, but the hardware was the same. I believe that you firstly have to fully understand the problem before coming up with countermeasures and my analysis helped me to do that.
I have a very analytical approach and focus very much on the facts and numbers. If your experience as a crew chief isn't huge then you have to start somewhere and that is from the numbers, 2012 when I started to work with Tom was really my first year as a crew chief.
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