Working on a new sportsbike is about as fun as pulling teeth…your own teeth that is and that’s when you’re not really pressed for time. Sure, you don’t need to balance carburettors, change jets, set the timing etc, etc but compared to bikes of the past there is a whole lot of stuff crammed in to not a lot of space. Bikes get smaller, the amount of technology gets greater. Add in the fact that you’re working on a race bike and things get worse.
While wandering the pits of round one of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island late in February this became very, very apparent. The perfect example of this ‘lack of space – not technology’ ethos is Ducati’s Panigale (see below). Sure, every bike has an air box, but not every bike’s air box doubles as the frame like these new ‘Dukes. There’s literally not even room for the rear shock due to the routing of the exhaust system, so it hangs off the side of the bike next to the riders leg…
This isn’t a problem when everything’s working well but when you throw in the fact that the bike’s engine has been tuned to compete in a world class racing series and you have 20 minutes to figure out why the bike has a miss-fire and you’re in a world of hurt if your resume says ‘race bike mechanic’. These guys (and I’m sure girls too) can pull one of these bikes apart, put it back together and have no worries about someone throwing themselves around a track at 300km/h without the thought of ‘did I torque that swing-arm nut up….?’
Now I’m happy going out into my garage and changing the oil on my bike….if I’m feeling adventurous I might even rip the wheels off and change the tyres. I have even been known to replace an exhaust system here and there. But the thought of having tear a bike apart, put it back together and then be certain that it will make race distance with some other bloke riding it terrifies me. Mechanics have to be some of the most under-rated members of a race team. They’re not interviewed about the problems they faced getting a bike on the grid and they certainly don’t get to spray champagne on often dubious looking grid girls and yet without them, there’d probably only be one race a year.
I’m sure there’s some perks in there for the race mechanic somewhere. But looking at the picture above and thinking ‘that bike needs to be ready in 15minutes’ I’m not sure the perks would be worth it. Long story short, I’m glad they do it and I take my hat off to them.