Coaching the gods (Part 2)

Published: 19 May 2016

‘We are looking for thousandths of a second’

he man who started all this was Roberts, who mentored three-time 500 world champion Rainey from the moment he first sat on a road-race bike in the early 1980s.

“When he came to Europe he was like a sponge, everything you told him would sink in, and he was always wanting more,” says Roberts. “Like, how come if you change the forks it does this? How come if you change the trail it does that? He wanted to know all that stuff.

“I’d watch him and tell him, Kevin [Schwantz] is doing this and you’re doing that, or Kevin’s spinning it up more there. He’d store all that in his computer for when he was racing.”

Mamola also raced for Team Roberts and learned plenty from King Kenny, much of it imparted as they tore round the dirt oval at Roberts’ ranch, sometimes after Kenny had sunk a few beers, so he hollered advice in Mamola’s ears as they rode together.

An extra pair of eyes

Mamola gives advice to Smith in a soberer manner. “I’m an extra pair of eyes,” says the 13-time 500 GP winner who works for the Wasserman Media Group which manages Smith, Cal Crutchlow, Danny Kent, Brad Binder and Jonas Folger. “Wasserman wanted me to be a manager but I don’t like pushing paper, so now I’m an extra pair of eyes available to all these guys, though I mostly work with Bradley.

“It can be quite emotional because it’s important to be very honest. Sometimes I may say something that upsets a rider, but it’s for their own good. It’s like, why should I baby you when the guys out there aren’t going to baby you?

“It’s so tough now that riders are looking at anything that may help. Sometimes Valentino has similar problems to Bradley because they’re both tall riders and they ride the same bike, so sometimes he looks at Bradley’s data.

“My job is also about watching what the other guy’s doing, where is he making that extra time? Bradley used to have a bit of a tick, where he would shift his upper body a lot without moving his lower body. There’s just not enough energy in the upper body to change direction fast, it’s got to be the whole body moving with the bike.”

Other times the coach/spotter’s job is to help the rider in other ways, with bike set-up and state of mind.

“Often I’ve seen guys riding the same bike having the same issues,” Mamola adds. “One time Bradley was about to spit the dummy about something, because he thought he was the only one having this issue. I knew Valentino and Jorge were complaining about the same thing, so I asked Yamaha to pull up Vale’s data, then showed Bradley and discussed it with him.”

Keeping it in the family

Like any teacher, a MotoGP coach can get a huge buzz out of seeing his efforts bring results. John Laverty has helped younger brother Eugene since he retired at the end of 2012. The very next summer he played a vital role in Eugene’s Assen WSB win over Tom Sykes “I’d been drumming at Eugene all weekend, telling him he was losing time in that fast change of direction on the back straight,” says John. “In the second race he actually passed Tom at that point and won the race. It’s a nice feeling when you can play a small part in getting a great result.”

There’s already no doubt that Rossi appreciates Cadalora’s input. “Luca played a very important part in this victory,” said Rossi after his recent Jerez win. “During the weekend we work very much together and he helps me a lot with many small things on the track and with setting up the bike.”

Luca is equally effusive of Valentino: “He is really someone special,” says Cadalora. “People looking in from the outside don’t understand what he’s like, I was so surprised. He’s very nice to work with, with a lot of respect for everyone. I only knew about his past from what I’d seen on TV but I’m very impressed. I’ve found a very nice group of people to work with: Valentino, Silvano Galbusera [Rossi’s crew chief], Matteo Flamigni [Rossi’s data guy] and all the mechanics. If another rider had asked me to do this job maybe I would have said no, but I couldn’t say no to Valentino!”

Words: Max Oxley Photos: Gold and Goose