Q&A with Aprilia Team Manager Francesco Guidotti
Francesco Guidotti has been part of Aprilia's racing effort since 1993. Initially he was a mechanic in the Italian series before moving up to the European scene and was then finally ‘promoted' to Grand Prix racing.
The 32 year-old from Firenze is now the team manager of the official MS Aprilia Italia Corse 250cc outfit, the Noale-based manufacturer's flagship team at the moment. Guidotti has taken time out to explain to motogp.com how he went about gaining experience and how he landed his current role.
What are the difficulties of managing a world-class team, and where does one begin?
One begins very, very far away. Usually, you build up experience in the lower classes like national Sport Production. Then, in a larger championship like the European one. You have to have people that have come up step-by-step, that have the most experience. You can't improvise.
How many years of experience are necessary to get into World Motorcycle racing?
It depends on how inspired you are, and on the combined experiences of people. There's the head mechanic, the mechanic, and the assistant mechanic, and everyone requires at least six years of experience in the minor championships to have the necessary experience to confront the most diverse situations that can happen in a world championship.
Are there particular classes one needs to take to be able to put his/her hands on a racing motorcycle which is certainly very different from an SP?
A real racing bike is certainly a completely different thing with respect to an SP, but you're never left alone. When you are dealing with GP motorcycles there's always someone who offers their experience. It's a kind of school, especially if you start with an Italian motorcycle, there's assistance at the track to give you a hand. At one time, for whoever bought a new GP motorcycle, courses were offered, however, they were never a big success. That was because every team prefers to trust in people with the most experience instead of following technical instruction.
Do teams change from year to year or do you try to maintain a group?
You try to always get better, but it's true that harmony counts a lot, so if there aren't any particular problems you try to maintain more or less the same group.
How much does the Team Manager count in the group?
In a group of 25 people, technicians, riders, engineers, my role counts more at the home base than on the track. It's about coordinating the arrival of materials, trying to meet all the needs of everyone where possible, firstly the technical ones but also the human ones, trying to guarantee a calmness that you can bring to the circuits.
And now to Francesco Guidotti and the riders. How should a team manager behave with those who have to give it their all for the benefit of the team?
Yes, this is perhaps the most important element, especially at management level - how much pressure to put on the kids: not too much, not too little. Trying also to keep the rapport fresh. I have to be able to keep them concentrated, to inspire them, but also to manage their dark moments with calmness, and at times, firmness.
Tell us about a particular anecdote that you remember well from your career?
At Leguna Seca in 2002, when we were in Superbikes, I was able to get the gas from Italy that we needed for the race that weekend, only an hour before the free sessions. The tension amongst everyone was very high: we'd been waiting since Wednesday, but there was no trace of the shipment. Not racing was a real possibility. On top of that, because of the time change, I spent some nights on the phone looking to track the shipment. In the end, I personally went to get the six barrels of gas and we were able to use it as usual throughout the race weekend.
And a funny one you can remember?
Last year, Jeremy Mc Williams fell during the warm up in Barcelona. He was in a lot of pain, a strange thing for McWilliams who never seemed to suffer much after a fall. From the x-rays, however, you couldn't see a fracture, so we were afraid it might be something internal. Dr. Costa advised us to take him to the hospital for more tests. As soon as we arrived, Jeremy was examined and they gave him an IV. While waiting for the results, we couldn't find him anywhere. Five minutes later, while walking past the bar, I saw Jeremy ordering two beers. Seeing him with an IV, the bartender didn't want to give them to him, but Jeremy was arguing, saying that he was thirsty. Like any good Irish boy, for him beer was the most normal thing to drink!!