Gilles Bigot, the French crew chief of Marc VDS MotoGP rider Tom Lüthi, has been in MotoGP a long time. In that time, he has seen a lot of riders come and go, and learned an awful lot about racing. At Jerez, I spoke to the Frenchman about the process of adapting to MotoGP. What started out as an attempt to get to the bottom of the problems Tom Lüthi faces in his switch to MotoGP after spending so many years in Moto2 became something much deeper, and much more interesting. We ended up speaking for half an hour, all of which was fascinating.
In the first part of the interview, Bigot talks about his involvement in three key transitions. First, the switch from two strokes to four strokes, when the MotoGP machines replaced the 500cc bikes, and how Valentino Rossi made that jump faster and more easily than anyone else. Next, the introduction of the Moto2 class, when he was crew chief to Shoya Tomizawa, and how the Japanese youngster adapted to four strokes. And finally, why Kenan Sofuoglu, who eventually took over Tomizawa's seat after the tragic death of the Japanese rider, never really adapted to Moto2, and ended up going back to World Supersport.
Bigot had been crew chief to Alex Crivillé in 1999, when the Spaniard won his, and Spain's, first premier class title. After Crivillé retired at the end of 2001, Bigot embarked on a new project, working with the Tech3 team, who were at that point considering entering MotoGP. For the first part of the 2002 season, the year in which the four stroke 990cc MotoGP bikes made their first appearance, Bigot spent his time at the side of the track, watching the bikes and learning to understand the difference between the old two strokes and the new four strokes.
Gilles Bigot: I spent one year with the Tech3 team. I was in Grand Prix but at that time they wanted to set up a team for Sylvain Guintoli, with Gauloises and Yamaha. That was the idea from Hervé. Then at the end we did it. We did a couple of tests and we did one Grand Prix in Brno. So meanwhile I was doing this, some testing, and of course I was also going to the races. I was doing basically, not sight-seeing, but I was spotting some areas. It was the year of the transition with the 500 and MotoGP, so that was very interesting to watch. I witnessed a few things that were at that time very interesting.
Q: Such as?
GB: Basically, at that time Valentino [Rossi] of course was Valentino. Watching him from the outside, he was the only one who was doing something different. Everybody was riding his bike in a normal way, like a 500. Just shifting in the same place. He was riding different gears, different way of braking. At that time, for the engine brake was a bit different. It was more difficult. It was more mechanical than electronic. So it was difficult. Everybody was trying to come around and the bikes were sliding around. So he was trying to brake straight, and then entering the corner. He was trying techniques that no one was trying.
But he was younger. He was a younger generation. That was the difference between him and the other guys who were basically, as usual, you know, as you grow older you got your habit and it’s difficult just to go backward, or even someone suggests to you to do something, it’s not easy. But him, he was very open-minded.
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