MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Dovizioso and Giribuola: MotoGP’s best pitlane partnership?
In conversation with the man behind Andrea Dovizioso’s late title push, crew chief and mechatronics expert Alberto Giribuola
Since the summer break Andrea Dovizioso has been the strongest rider in MotoGP, with two wins and one third place finish. His Misano victory moved him into second overall. The title is a long shot but not entirely out of range for the Italian and his crew chief Andrea Giribuola (above with Ducati general manager Gigi Dall’Igna). Andrea and Alberto, who have worked together since 2016, comprise arguably the cleverest pitlane partnership in MotoGP. They challenged for last year’s title by understanding the bike/tyre combination better than most. This year it has taken them longer to build their challenge because a slight change in Michelin’s rear slick had them confused for the first half of the season.
How did you get into bikes?
I’ve loved bikes since I was six years old. When I was 10 we were on holiday on the Adriatic coast and I saw a minimoto track, so I had to have a go! From then my dream was to be a rider, but there was no opportunity to grow up as a rider around Turin. I wanted to do something like the Aprilia Challenge, but we didn’t have enough money, so my father said, ‘go study!’
What did you study to get into racing?
I did three years learning electronics at Turin University, the final two years focused on mechatronics. It’s a mixture of mechanics and electronics, so more and more people are studying it because most mechanical things are electronically controlled.
In my first years in racing I was a data engineer at Pramac with Niccolò Canepa, Aleix Espargaró and Randy de Puniet. My dream was to be a crew chief, so I moved to Ducati’s World Superbike programme working with Jakub Smrž. When Andrea arrived at Ducati at the end of 2012 his team needed a data engineer to work with his crew chief Christian Pupulin, so I worked with them in 2013 and 2014. When Gigi Dall’Igna arrived he moved me to Pramac, working as team technical coordinator. This helped increase my experience because I had to manage the set-up of both riders – Danilo Petrucci and Yonny Hernández – by helping their crew chiefs, while also looking after spare parts and so on. I learned a lot about everything, so by the time I became Andrea’s crew chief in 2016 I had done a bit of everything.
What’s it like being a crew chief in MotoGP?
There’s a big difference between being an electronics engineer and a crew chief. The electronics guy has a lot of exact numbers, so he tries to reach the right numbers for rear wheelspin and so on that give maximum performance, but the rider’s feeling may be completely different. To understand what your rider needs, you must be like him, think like him and understand his riding style. If you only use science you won’t find the best way. In car racing you can simulate everything, but with bikes it’s more about the sensation.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.