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The men behind Yamaha's success – Part 2

The men behind Yamaha's success – Part 2

The men behind Yamaha's success – Part 2

The core of the Rossi crew was new for 2004, with the link to the 2003 Yamaha team, Kiwi mechanic Brent Stephens, having moved from Carlos Checa's side. Stephens' fellow mechanics, Belgian Bernard Ansiau, and Aussie Alex Briggs as well as mechanics assistant Gary Coleman (also Australian), have been with Burgess for various lengths of time, and all three moved from Honda to follow him and Valentino. The second existing Yamaha team member in their new squad is Italian Data Recording Engineer Matteo Flamigni, who worked with Marco Melandri in 2003 (On the first picture, behind bike left to right: Gary Coleman / Alex Briggs / Jeremy Burgess / Matteo Flamigni. In front of bike left to right: Brent Stephens / Bernard Ansiau).

As Briggs explains, working with a new set of people and a new machine has been a pleasing challenge to take on. Of course a natural air of in-house competition is all part of the set-up!. "The guys who were already in the Yamaha team are a really good bunch. I get on great with them. We work with them, help each other build the garage, eat with them, and travel together. But there is a difference between racing and doing all those sorts of things. When it comes to racing, whether it comes to the guy in the garage next door or another company, it doesn't make any difference to us, we're just trying to beat them."

Rossi's crew have done a lot of learning this year, as well as teaching by example, but the most satisfying aspect for most of them is outlined once more by Briggs. "The best thing has been showing them that we have the ability to do what we always talked about. Before, in the previous team, it was just a small improvement from year to year. Coming here we didn't know what we would encounter and to see it all happen gives me a good feeling. It's good to see people excited and wanting to continue. There was nothing bad about coming here at all."

Other than Team Director Davide Brivio and Flamigni, the ‘link man' Brent Stephens is the common bond to the 2003 team. Working with Carlos Checa for five years, he moved sideways in 2004, and thus has a unique viewpoint.

The Australia-based Kiwi acknowledges that the new mix of personnel is a positive factor for all involved. "They wanted someone who was familiar with the bike, experienced with the motors and I wanted a change as well. I had worked with Carlos for five years, but change is always good. There used to be a lot more Italians in the team but now they are almost outnumbered by the Aussies!" said Brent. "There are also a few Spaniards and Belgians. It's really healthy to have all those different cultures working together. The Italians in the team didn't want to have any more Italians because they themselves admit that they have quite a high temper, and you need a balance. The more relaxed Aussies balance that out. The overall situation works really well."

Although intensely focused on winning, the Burgess boys have a relaxed attitude to the pressures inherent in their field, a factor of their approach that breaks the stress before it starts. "We have a good old laugh at races," grins Brent, "sometimes I think it's not right to have so much fun doing a job! But we have a good old laugh. There is so much seriousness in it that you have to inject a bit of humour as well. People expect there to be much more pressure involved in working with Valentino. Although you want to say there isn't, there really is; there's a lot on the line and there is a lot of responsibility resting on you - but it's all good."

Compared to the new virtual antipodean homogeny on Rossi's side of the garage, the crew who worked for Checa in 2004 included Spaniards, Italians, Brits and the ever-present tight-knit group of home factory Japanese. Their crew chief in 2004 was the multi-lingual Antonio Jimenez, who has since, like Checa, moved on to pastures new. Speaking this season, he said, "We communicate in English so it doesn't matter where we all come from. I can also speak to the mechanics in Spanish, or Italian and French with the Michelin people. But our unifying language is English."

Like all other people with a racing spirit, Jimenez admitted that this unity does not extend across the garage when racing starts. "There is no wall in the middle of the garage but when everyone is doing their job they are concentrating on that, so we are not worrying about what is going on in the other side. Everybody is doing his job as well as he can. Of course, after qualifying or practice, it is good to look at what the other guys are doing, and they look at what you are doing. This year especially, with Valentino over the other side, we learned a lot of things."

So even though Valentino was not under his wing, his mere presence made a difference. Over to Antonio again. "I think the difference was that the presence of Valentino has given a lot of motivation to the other Yamaha riders. This also improved their performance."

MotoGP, 2005

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