Gilles Bigot has over 30-years of experience in the grand prix paddock, including as crew chief to Alex Criville during the Spaniard’s 1999 title-winning 500cc campaign with Repsol Honda.

The 62-year-old Frenchman was most recently involved in the premier-class last season, moving to Marc VDS alongside Thomas Luthi. Bigot remained with the team after the MotoGP project ended, becoming crew chief for Xavi Vierge in Moto2 this year.

But what does he remember of the 1999 title triumph with Criville?

"It was a dream come true; the result of a lot of work and a journey full of obstacles for Álex, because he had the best rider of the 90s [Mick Doohan] as his team-mate," Bigot said.

"At the beginning of the season, I think we found a very good base setup. Since 1995, one of my requests to HRC to help Álex was for them to develop an electronic control for the exhaust valves, to better control the bike’s power when accelerating, and it worked very well.

"Many elements combined for us to be very competitive and have a good season.”

The Criville-Bigot partnership began in 1994, when the Spaniard was added to the factory Honda team.

“At the beginning it was rather difficult, because Álex was the third rider, it was my first year as a chief mechanic, and my first year in 500cc," Bigot said.

"In the opening preseason test, in Australia, I was told on the first day that we were going to use Doohan’s two bikes from 1993, plus some same parts, and that we would be located behind the box occupied by Mick Doohan and Shinichi Itoh. I understood that we had to earn HRC’s trust.

"In the first three races, the difference between us and the winner was quite big and there was some tension. But at Jerez, Álex cut the gap a lot and at the next round, in Salzburgring, we took a load off our shoulders thanks to the podium he earned after fighting with Kevin Schwantz.

"From there on he gained confidence and everything went well with the team; There was a very good atmosphere among us all.

"I will always remember when Álex crashed in practice at Laguna Seca; he had destroyed the bike and, when he arrived in the pits, mechanics from Mick and Shinichi’s crews helped us to rebuild it. The bike was ready in under an hour."

In the three decades since the job of crew chief, like the machines they work on, has changed immensely.

"Before, there were many things that a crew chief could decide, from the setup, to the gearbox, to the chassis geometry," Bigot said. "We had four or five different front tyres, and five or six rear tyres, and you had to choose them well. There were fewer technicians and engineers.

"With the power that the current bikes have, the electronics needed to control it has taken on a more important role. Nowadays it is simpler in terms of tyre choice, but much more reflection is required when analysing at what temperature each compound works best.

"Everything is analysed down to the smallest detail and there are several engineers working on the electronics. Data has taken over."

He added: "All of the bikes have the same tyres and the same ECU, plus there is a limit to pre-season testing and even to trying things out in the Grand Prix itself, because FP2 has become a qualifying session to earn direct access to Q2.

"All this leaves you with little time to set-up the bike and requires maximum concentration and fitness. The riders must be very determined to reach the limit and 1% makes all the difference."

Casting his eye over the 2019 MotoGP season so far, Bigot said: "It’s very interesting, because it’s very homogenous. It’s been a fantastic start to the season and seeing three different manufacturers being capable of winning is very good for motorcycle racing.

"Although we support a specific rider, there is nothing better than knowing that from the start, several riders and manufacturers will aspire to victory. This makes the races more beautiful.

"I imagined that Marc would be performing at a high level, right from the first race, and that we would see Dovizioso up there with him. I also thought that Álex Rins could win a Grand Prix this season, and he has already achieved that and is second in the World Championship, which is to be admired.

"Valentino Rossi is always up there, but the other novelty this year is Fabio Quartararo. He needs to finish things off with a good result, but he has speed and a style that suits his bike well.

"What will happen from now on? At the moment Márquez seems to be strongest, but behind him are several riders who can spring a surprise. It’s very interesting.”

And those surprises could continue in Bigot's home round at Le Mans this weekend.

“First of all, let’s hope it’s sunny. We already know that Márquez will give his all, so it will not be he who will be the focus for onlookers, but rather Fabio Quartararo. How will he do? He could cause a shock to many riders.

"Then there is Álex Rins, who won there in Moto2 and got three podiums in Moto3, so he could add another in MotoGP.”

One rider raising eyebrows for opposite reasons is triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, yet to finish higher than twelfth at Repsol Honda.

"Changing manufacturers twice in three seasons is something that should be valued," Bigot said. "The Yamaha seems to be the most docile bike to ride, so leaving them was a very risky gamble.

"Then he left Ducati, and a bike that he had just managed to get to grips with, to join Honda. It is another display of courage, because time goes by very quickly and you have to maintain your motivation when the results aren’t as you had hoped.

"The reduction of testing time and the new format for the sessions on Saturday cannot have helped either, although I think Jorge will find the solutions needed to go faster. The question is whether it will be enough to fight at the front.”

Vierge has taken two front-row starts and a best finish of sixth in Moto2 so far this year.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...