Rossi has always been an advocate of having his crew chief and engineers follow him as he changed teams. Much of his crew followed him in his move to Yamaha and now to Ducati.
Tire vendors are at the track to sell tires, but don’t be afraid to talk to them about recommended compounds and pressures. They usually have a wealth of knowledge and will look to make sure you are comfortable on their tires.
Having someone with you at the track to help work on the bike and maintain your pit takes a large load off your shoulders. It’s important to remember that without their help, surviving a day or two at the track would be difficult.
As you gain experience and speed at the track, the more your suspension will need to be adjusted. Instead of trying to work on the bike yourself between sessions, work with a suspension tech to set up your bike.
When Valentino Rossi started the 2004 MotoGP season with a win at the Welkom circuit in South Africa, he was on a completely new machine, the Yamaha M1. While much of the win in South Africa can be attributed to Rossi's unrivaled skills on a motorcycle, parts of it can be accredited to the change he didn't make over the offseason: the crew chief and the majority of the crew he worked with.
During the 2004 season Rossi established not only his dominance as a rider, but perhaps more important, the significance of a team in motorcycle racing—a notion that is often overlooked by those who refer to racing as an individual's sport.
Unlike Rossi, you probably don't have a renowned crew chief like Jeremy Burgess or a team of engineers and data acquisition personnel within your arsenal, but if you are club racing or riding track days, you do have local tire vendors, suspension techs and friends all willing to lend a helping hand. Combined, these people make up your team. And while this team may seem rather atypical, making the most of the help each of these individuals is able to provide can greatly enhance your experience at the track.
If you have ever tried to go to the track alone, you know that doing so is no easy feat. Before long you realize that somewhere in between the packing, unpacking, setting up the pit and rushing off to get signed up for the day's activities, you lose focus on what you are there to do—ride. Simple tasks such as checking your fuel level and tire pressures can be bypassed as you frantically try to get the canopy set up and still make it on time to the riders meeting. That is perhaps why the most important part of any rider's team is the friends and family who willingly come out and take care of some of the more mundane tasks that distract you from riding.
It isn't that you need an accredited mechanic by your side either, rather someone who can simply take a load off your shoulders. Having someone who is willing to take care of the little things like putting on and taking off tire warmers, checking the gas and making sure you have something to eat is a big help. If you have a more mechanically inclined individual able to assist with things such as wheel swaps however, then all the better. Always make sure however, that the person is one that you trust mechanically and are comfortable with working on your bike. Also, in the event of a crash, it is very important to have a friend willing to get you and your belongings home safely. No, you may not have Jeremy Burgess by your side, but if your friends are able to help you get through a day or two at the track, then they are an important part of your team, and one that you could hardly do without.
Another important part of your team is the local tire vendor, and while those vendors are at the track to sell tires, they can also help you and provide you with valuable information. The important thing to understand about tire vendors is that they want to see that you are comfortable on their tires and happy with their product. This means that your local vendor is typically more than happy to discuss proper tire pressures and compounds, so at each event you attend, be sure to talk to your trusted vendor and discuss what psi they recommend for the day or what tire compounds they may suggest for the given track. And while it does vary drastically compared to the open line of communication between Rossi and his Bridgestone tire tech, the relationship you form with your local tire vendor will provide you with a better understanding of the tires you are using and allow you to further trust the rubber you ride on.
If you do not have previous experience working with your bike's suspension, then perhaps an even more important part of your team is your local suspension tech. More often than not, there are a handful of companies that frequent local track days and race events, all of which are capable of helping you better set up your bike. And while there are costs associated with working with a tech at the track, doing so can significantly improve the quality of your ride.
Unfortunately, suspension setup is not a one-time thing and you will constantly need to change settings as you pick up speed and go to different tracks. For this reason, it is important to find a tech that you feel comfortable working with and who you can communicate with easily. Also, make sure that the tech is one that frequents similar events as you and make sure you keep track of the numerous changes you have made to your original settings, as that is something you will likely want to refer back to.
While it does seem like a rather strange concept to consider vendors as part of your team, remember that a weekend at the track would be much more difficult if you didn't have the tire guys swapping out your tires or the suspension tech helping you set up your bike. Together, these vendors and your friends back in the pits will help take an unbelievable amount of stress off your shoulders. As a result, you will enjoy your time at the track much more and you will be able to focus more of your energy on riding and your technique. As the saying goes though, there is no I' in team. And as with every team sport, your success is determined by how well everyone works together. As such, always make sure those who are lending a hand know that you appreciate their help.
The bottom line is you can't take on the track alone. You need a team of people behind you that you trust and enjoy working with, just as Rossi proved in 2004. SR