Everything must be and look totally under control and that will communicate itself to the rider. Of course I'm the guy sitting next to him too and it will be me that he asks the questions so I have to contribute to that atmosphere by being a bit of a mental coach. Once again I have to say that the mental side of this sport is more important than the technical side.
Since I've been given the role of crew chief, I have always asked myself, 'What is the best way to manage a race weekend?' and my opinion is that right from the first day, I want to put the rider into race mode.
Right from the first lap on Friday I want the rider to be in race mode and getting as many laps in to find their limitations. It's important to not come into the garage after every lap but to consistently do a high number of laps so that you can get a valid picture. Every session for us is a race. In order to do this you need a good bike first, and having a good base setting has made this possible.
It's always a matter of the rider finding the limits of the bike and the circumstances and the only way to do that is to do as many laps as possible and not to change the bike too much because if you change too much, the rider is never able to find the limit and adapt. It's systematic and gradual.
I make my program on Thursday and that's what I expect will happen. Some things Tom will know about, some aspects about set up he doesn't need to. If you don't make a program, you can miss things.
I'm very self-critical person and don't like to put myself on a pedestal. Every day I feel that I could have done something differently or that I dropped the ball somewhere. I am not easy on myself and constantly like to improve.
Is it important to you to get the fastest time in free practice?
Yes it is important, not for the race but for the rider. Mentally if he's in the number one position he feels strong and it's good for the rider's confidence. Also if they are near the limit, any feedback they give will be valid for the speeds they get up to in the race.
But I don't give a rider new tyres for the last 10 minutes of the session just to get a good time, that would be just fooling ourselves. Tom often does the overall best lap time on very used tyres anyway. That is the result of the rider getting used to the circumstances in combination with minor set-up changes. Every session we only use one set of tyres and treat it as a race simulation. The lap times are far more interesting after 16, 17 or 18 laps.
How would you assess Tom as a rider?
He has some special ability, he's fast. He wasn't able to show it in the past in WSBK but now he can. He's also improving, he has improved while I've been working with him and he is still improving. I don't know where his limit is yet.
He has shown in some races and particular Superpole that he can leave the rest of the field behind.
One of his strengths is that he can really control all situations; a good example was in Magny Cours last season where we were fighting for the title. In wet conditions we were always struggling to find a proper set-up. But Tom managed to keep a chaotic situation under control to get the best result possible in the first race. When we then realised that we could win the title he went out and won the second race and managed it until the last lap.