The news that Michele Pirro is to serve as a track analyst to Jorge Lorenzo during his time at Ducati was greeted with interest at Sepang. It was unexpected, but looking back at it, a logical and highly sensible decision.
With a total of five Grand Prix titles to his name, why would Jorge Lorenzo want or need a track analyst? Come to mention it, why would Valentino Rossi, with nine Grand Prix titles and 114 victories to his name, employ a rider coach in Luca Cadalora?
The answer lies in what rider coaches and track analysts do. Their role is not quite what many fans believe it is. A track analyst or rider coach is not just there to provide tips on how a rider can improve their riding. They serve first and foremost to provide input on how to make a rider a better racer, and improve their competitiveness.
How do they do that? One of the most important roles of a rider coach is not so much to tell a rider what they are doing wrong or right, but rather what they are doing in comparison to other riders. They often serve as a mediator between the rider and the crew chief, helping to interpret the rider's feedback through the prism of what they see on the track. That gives crew chiefs and data engineers more information to work with, and a better chance at improving the bike.
Winning with Wilco
Wilco Zeelenberg, Yamaha rider performance analyst (an expensive phrase to mean rider coach) for Maverick Viñales, and previously with Jorge Lorenzo, explains by way of an example, of when he was working with Lorenzo at Le Mans in 2012. "Jorge was complaining about problems on corner entry in the warm up at Le Mans," Zeelenberg told me. "So I'm watching from track side, and I tell him, 'you're entering the corner much faster than the rest in the rain. Focus on the exit. The rear keeps breaking away, but don't fixate on that, and focus on corner exit. You looked great in the rain, but you were leaving time out there on corner exit, especially during the warm up.'
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