WSBK » 08 August 2013
Marcel Duinker (Tom Sykes’ crew chief) - Q&A
Now it's become a little different in that from the end of last year we had a proper base set up so now I can work more with my fingertips, just tweaking things as we go. Moscow and Silverstone are very different tracks but we can make small adjustments to that setting and we're already at 95%. Life is easier.
I also have to say that from day one, the relationship between Tom and I just worked.
Another aspect that has improved is that Tom no longer fades at the end of the race…
If you start from zero, you don't have any history. We just didn't have any data from previous years to look back to. The problem was purely due to bike set up. We started from scratch and given that we arrived at Magny Cours and almost won the title, it's very difficult to accept the comment that Tom is fast at the beginning and then goes backwards.
You have to remember that at the start of the 2012 season we had a third at Philip Island, two seconds at Imola and after that we were consistently on the podium. That was already a big overachievement given our starting point, we didn't expect that so early, so to almost win the title at the end with a completely new team structure, new crew chief and new bike was a great success.
When our bike doesn't perform enough, the most important and difficult question is always: “are we missing turning or rear traction?” When the bike isn't turning enough you spend more time on the side of the tyre and this wears the rear tyre.
Also when the bike doesn't generate enough rear traction, again the bike doesn't turn enough and again you'll spend more time on the side of the tyre and reduce the rear tyre endurance. It was working on this equation which brought our improvement.
It wasn't a matter of how the rider manages the bike, not at all. Tom's riding style is actually very good as regards using the tyre because he uses the power of the bike well. He picks the bike up quickly and gets it fired out of corners, he uses the power of the engine and keeps it off the side of the tyre as much as possible and that is a proper Superbike style. You can only do that if the bike is set up properly though.
When he started fast and then got overtaken by other riders, it was only because the bike set up wasn't there yet and comes back to the fact that we started from nothing. Everyone points at the tyre or Tom's riding style but it was just that set up of the bike and the tyre wear was a symptom.
As a technician, do you feel an attachment to the bike, is it 'your baby'?
No, the bike is just a tool. Of course, if there is a scratch on the chassis, I don't like to see it, if there is some wear in the finish somewhere I like to change it because I always like to give the rider the feeling that they've got the best material.
I am responsible for the technical side of things but I am also responsible for the mental side of the rider.
So your responsibilities as a crew chief include intangibles such as the atmosphere in the pits?
When it comes to how the team works the environment in the garage is important. Aspects such as cleanliness in the garage contribute to a productive atmosphere. Another example is that I don't like to see mechanics run from the pit wall to the garage as this can give a feeling of confusion or stress. I really try to make the team run like a Swiss watch.
I don't want to see dirt on the floor, I want the rider to feel that they're in the best pits with the best looking bike and best team because the mental side of this sport is more important than the technical side. If the rider doesn't trust something in the crew chief, mechanics, bike or whatever then they don't open the throttle. If the bike is 95% and the rider is 100% confident then they can win but if the bike is 100% but rider is 95% confident then they can't.
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