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EXCLUSIVE Les Pearson (Crescent Suzuki) Q&A

7 May 2014

Les Pearson made his way into the motorcycle world after competing in motocross in the eighties. When good friend Stewart Johnstone introduced him to Colin Wright, Pearson started a successful relationship with four-time BSB runner up Chris Walker.

From there Pearson's work has taken him around the world and he's currently working as Alex Lowes' crew chief in the Crescent Suzuki World Superbike outfit.

With Suzuki starting 2014 strongly Crash.net spoke to Les about Suzuki's resurgence, working with Alex Lowes and his career so far.

Crash.net:
There has been a lot made of the progress the Crescent Suzuki team has made from the end of 2013 to the start of '14. What do you put that down to?

Les Pearson:
I think both [personnel changes / developments with the bike]. The bike has been getting better and better all the time and without unlimited resources it's hard to do everything straight away. Even now the problem is we've made the bike, got a lot of things on the bike that are comparable to the Aprilia and the Ducati but we've still got the same number of staff in the system. So things take a bit of time and it's just a matter of trying to speed that process up, especially as we go from track to track.

Crash.net:
Eugene has said it's rare to see such a jump in development in such a short space of time. Was there one factor that contributed more than anything else?

Les Pearson:
The electronics were the biggest thing. We just changed the way the electronics worked. We got a new guy on board, Davide Gentile, who's helped with torque control and engine brake strategies… that's what has moved us forward. We knew where we wanted to be [before 2014] but it's difficult for him to come in without unlimited resources. We always planned to change the hardware of the electronics at the end of last year, which we did, and that coincided with when Davide came onboard. Obviously he had a good understanding with where we were going so that made it a bit easier.

Crash.net:
Do you find you have to adapt year on year to the new technologies?

Les Pearson:
Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of time to be gained or lost with the electronics.

Crash.net:
Is Yoshimura's input the same as it was in 2013?

Les Pearson:
Yeah, it's pretty much identical to what it was last year. The first year they came onboard they wanted to build the engines but they had some issues. We pooled everyone's knowledge together – our knowledge and theirs - and we came up with base-spec that, at the end of the day, was really strong. Logistically it was impossible for them to do the building because they're in Japan so we took back all the building of the engines and they concentrated on development and we got a step half way through the year with better valve control and different cam shafts, a cylinder head and that's been pretty much the same. Then we tested another spec at the test at Jerez, which is the next stage but it's still not come through.

Crash.net:
Do you have a specific date for when you can use that?

Les Pearson:
No, we had some problems that they didn't foresee so we've got to go back and do some dyno work and we'll run it again.

Crash.net:
When you see Alex interviewed he's always bubbling with energy. What is he like to work with when you are both sat in the garage?

Les Pearson:
Exactly as he appears really! He reminds me of when I first started working with Chris Walker. They're very similar personalities and they're very similar on the bike. They put in 110 percent all the time and push really hard. They really appreciate your work and are very similar characters. His feedback from when he's on the bike is definitely – I've worked with quite a lot of riders and he's definitely one of the better ones at giving feedback.

Crash.net:
As a crew chief do you have to adapt your approach completely to a new rider's specific needs or personality?

Les Pearson:
100 percent. That's probably the hardest part of the job. Sometimes you get into a bit of a situation where you've been with a rider for three years and that part of it isn't as stressful. But when you change you have to learn how to work with a different rider. Just how you behave and speak with them has to fit in with the way they work and how they are mentally.

Crash.net:
So how have you adapted that to Alex?

Les Pearson:
Well he definitely likes a bit of love but I think most people do! Yeah. I mean obviously I saw what he did in BSB so I knew he had good speed but then we've seen a lot of people come from BSB and not really shone. In his last race when he had to beat Shane to win it I watched that race afterwards, as we were racing as well. But when I heard he was going to be on the bike I watched the race and he made it happen. The thing that shocked me and made me realise how good he was. Chris Walker - one of my best mates - said he [Alex] can do things on the bike that no one else can. He said he'd be really good and he was right.

Crash.net:
I read you got into the sport through motocross…

Les Pearson:
I used to race in the eighties and then I stopped. I did it on and off in the nineties and then since 2000 I've had a bike all the time and ride as much as I can. It helps to keep me young. I worked in motocross for three years. I think it's a little better now but in this country especially there's not much money in it. For sure if the money was there that's where I'd be working now. That's what I like and I always follow the British AMCA series.

Crash.net:
.Are your two kids showing an interest in that?

Les Pearson:
I've got an eight year old and an eleven year old. The eleven year old did it for a bit but he's not very brave. He got knocked off and lost interest pretty quick. The younger one, Bradley, he's really into it [and] has just moved up to geared bikes and rides a 65cc now. I just need to try and get him out a bit more.

Crash.net:
How did you move into road racing after your time in motocross?

Les Pearson:
When I came out of motocross my friend Stewart Johnstone was heavily involved with road racing and Colin Wright [former GSE Racing boss]. I went to work with him for a year and clicked with it really quick. I was a chassis mechanic then but I was eager to learn and soak everything up. That team decided to go with Ducati and Colin took Stewart and a couple of key members of staff. Kawasaki wanted to keep Chris and he wanted me to stay so suddenly I went from chassis mechanic to being Chris' crew chief and engine builder and developer. We ran them really close and finished second in the championship. Basically that kick started it all.

Crash.net:
I have to ask you this. As a mechanic or technician can you ever get over something like the dramatic end to the 2000 British Superbike Championship?

Les Pearson:
No. [long pause] No, that was [long pause] … No [laughs]!

Crash.net:
Working for a world championship team obviously requires a lot of time and travelling. Do you see yourself doing this for the foreseeable future?

Les Pearson:
It's difficult, as it's what you know isn't it? I got married and had kids and I always wanted to set myself up on my own doing motors and suspension but the transition to do that is obviously tough at the beginning. That sort of never happened and then I split up with my wife in 2012 almost certainly because of the job. I'm at that stage now where my kids are getting to the point where you think, 'What do I do? Do I keep doing my job? Will I regret it later on because I haven't spent more time with them [my kids]?' It's difficult really, I haven't decided.

Crash.net:
Are there any circuits coming up that you don't think will suit the bike?

Les Pearson:
Eugene's maybe mentioned Sepang [being a difficult track for the Suzuki] because of the length of the straights but it doesn't always work like that. Some places where you expect to be fast you tend to struggle and vice versa. The idea of where it's going to be good or bad comes from previous experience. If I had to guess I'd say the Suzuki would be quite good around there. The style of the track might suit it. Ok, it has a couple of big straights but if you're quite good one the brakes it's not such a big problem.

Crash.net:
Looking at 2013 as a whole Alex has already shown that he'll be a top six/podium challenger on his day. Who do you see challenging him at the front?

Les Pearson:
I think now that Phillip Island is out of the way Tom [Sykes] is going to be strong again. For sure Melandri and I think Eugene is going to be pretty strong throughout the season. He finished second in the world, he's a class rider and he showed it at Phillip Island. He almost rides better under pressure, which is a strong point. I think they're the main guys.

Crash.net:
Thanks for your time Les.

Les Pearson:
No problem


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