MotoGP: An Interview With Alex Briggs on Yamaha, Ducati, and Valentino.
Our MotoGP correspondent Tracey Ann Daniels interviewed Alex Briggs, australian mechanic working for Valentino Rossi in the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team. Tracey asked Alex about personal life, moving back to Yamaha, issues with Ducati and the pressure on Valentino.
My story goes like this: I raced motocross in Australia and was okay, but not great. To support my motocross habit and my future I had become an apprentice mechanic for a government bus company in Australia’s capital city Canberra.
I was a decent rider but afraid I was not going to reach my schoolboy dream of being a motocross champion. I had become friends with many good riders and begun to travel with them to races. I would drive to Sydney and drop my van at their house and put my bike in their van or vice versa, and then we would split the costs as we raced around Australia. Sometimes I would work on their bikes for them, including suspension and engine rebuilds and when they were successful, people would ask them who worked on their bikes. So eventually I was sitting at home with a broken tail bone (from a motocross crash) and the phone rang. It was the manager of the Australian Yamaha Motocross Team, asking if I would like to work for them.
So I took a pay cut of over half and went to Sydney and worked with that team for a few years. I ended up working for one of Australia’s top riders, Craig Dack, who now owns the best motocross team in Australia.
During the time there, I met Peter Luczkowski, who was a mechanic for Michael Doohan. He had previously worked for Jeff Leisk who rode for HRC in the European Motocross Championship. I also met Gary Benn who was running Yamaha’s Motocross Team in Europe (both Australians). I told them both that I wanted to work in Europe as a motocross mechanic. Towards the end of 1992 Gary offered me a job in Europe for the 1993 motocross season and whilst at the Motocross Des Nations in Perth Australia, I shook hands with Gary and the deal was done.
I drove the truck to Brisbane, a really long way. When I arrived in Brisbane I had a message to ring some guy called Jeremy Burgess. I rang JB and he offered me a job in road racing for Darryl Beattie and Rothmans Honda. So I then spoke to Gary Benn and told him as we had shaken on our deal, I would be working with him. Gary said to me “Go road racing – it’s cleaner” so I must thank Gary for that! I called JB back and he said “Okay, you have the job”. I said “What? Just like that?” and he replied “Don’t worry; I can sack you at any time”.
So to answer your question, it seems to be word of mouth. But the word of mouth is recommendations and you will get that if you are trustworthy, and are able to get on with a wide variety of people and can cope with being away from home and various other small things that some people can’t handle. Don’t get me wrong, the mechanical skill side is very important but many people have that ability and to be honest probably greater than me, but that alone is not what makes a racing mechanic.
Yes, I’m very happy to be back at Yamaha. When I left Yamaha it was not because I was unhappy in any way with Yamaha. So returning to a company where I know all the faces and I have lots of friends is fantastic.
Yes, I would have loved to have been part of the team that could make a bike at Ducati that suited Valentino and so would suit many riders. I’m afraid that wasn’t to be. Like a gearbox, there are many parts and gears that make a race team work. I hope for Ducati and MotoGP all the gears start to spin in the right direction soon.
3. Did or will you ever get a good understanding of why the Ducati never had any front end feel?
I think as a group of mechanics, we have a very good understanding of the problems and the possible solutions, but in the real world, things take longer than most people think, and like I said, there are many components in the process to making a motorcycle work well.
4. Do you think there is more pressure on Rossi for it to work now that he’s gone back to Yamaha?
The person who puts the most pressure on Valentino Rossi is Valentino Rossi, so it really does not matter what pressure the outside world puts on him or us.
The bike in essence is like the Yamaha he stepped off, so it is likely to be a good fit. Also Jorge has done a fantastic job winning the championship with it, so I think the bike clearly has what it takes.
6. Do you think there is enough available test time to get the new bike ready and are there any foreseeable concerns yet?
I personally hate the testing situation. If a team is in trouble, they want to test and can’t. If a team is successful, you don’t need to test that much. But I would say as the bike won the championship for Yamaha last year we will be in a good position. So I don’t see any major issues.
7. For the first time in years I’ve started being concerned for the MotoGP Championship. Do you share the same concern and feel that the Championship has changed dramatically in the last 5 years?
I do worry about it at the moment, but I don’t worry that people will stop racing motorcycles. As long as they make bikes, people will race them and if you watch people race motorcycles, you will love it! If you love it then so will a content provider! So I think it will continue, but in what form, I can’t tell you.
8. Do you prefer the 800cc or the 1000cc engine, and why?
I prefer the smaller capacity. I feel the 1000cc are far too powerful and the ways that we try to control that power to make it safer are not the best. In my opinion if you have rules that don’t change much then in about 5 years or so most companies have or will reach very similar levels in machinery. At that point the racing seems to become closer. So I don’t like the way we have shifted the goal posts so often. I’m not against it, I just prefer longer more stable rule changes.
I’m not a fan of the CRT idea, but I also do like to see 20+ bikes on the grid. The answer is not easy, otherwise we would have done it by now. I’m maybe old school now because one of the things I like about our sport is the technology and seeing how it gets used and improved. CRT bikes have less innovation because costs are lower by design. Like I said the answer is not easy.
10. And finally, do you see yourself staying in GP or would you try other opportunities in other areas once Valentino Rossi retires from the sport?
The first year I worked in GP, my friends and parents said to me “How long are you going to do this job?” or “When will you get a real job?” That was 21 seasons ago, so who knows. I work with great people in a job with great satisfaction. That’s what I think everybody wants to say, so if that keeps happening, then who knows?
By Tracey Ann Daniels - MotoGP Correspondent for RTR Sports Marketing In the pictures: Alex Briggs and Valentino Rossi during their Yamaha and Ducati years Pictures from the web.
Many thanks to Alex Briggs and Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team