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Behind the Scenes: Steve Jenkner

Behind the Scenes: Steve Jenkner goes behind the scenes to discover some more about the people that shape the MotoGP paddock. In this instalment we talk to Bridgestone’s Steve Jenkner.

German Jenkner, who stems from Hohenstein-Ernstthal near the Sachsenring, has been involved in bike racing for the past 23 years, including eight years in the 125cc class, followed by a year in 250cc, and four years ago he returned to the GP paddock with Bridgestone as a tyre technician. He has come a long way since his first outings on a minibike in 1989.

Do you still have fond memories of you’re your first World Championship race in 1997?

It was extremely tough. In the first race I was lapped by Sakata and Rossi. That was in Malaysia in extreme heat and not so funny. I knew that I had to learn a lot in a short time in order to compete in that championship.

And in 2003 you took your first win.

That was my first and only victory. It was in Assen and in the rain, in which I was good anyway. I felt confident from the first corner; my team had provided me with a bike that you almost had to win on. So after the first lap I already had a 10 second lead and was able to hold on to the finish.

In 2004, the expectations were very high. Unfortunately it did not work as hoped.

Yes, the expectations were naturally to win the world title. But the bike was not so good that year. While we made the best of it, we had bad luck a bit too often, and I crashed a lot. I never really got the run I needed. The year was not so bad however; I got on the podium. I was Marco Simoncelli’s teammate at the time, who scored a few podiums. We were a strong team, but it was not enough for victory.

Were you later friends with Marco Simoncelli?

We were teammates for three years and were then still good buddies. He was often with me and we went jogging together. It was very sad for me when he was killed. He was one who could have followed in the footsteps of Valentino, especially in terms of public relations. To inspire many people to come into this sport, you simply need types like Rossi and Simoncelli.

Then in 2005 you chose to withdraw from the sport.

It was not anticipated that we could raise more money for next season. That's why it ended at that point. I had shown that I could ride a motorcycle well, among the top-5 or top-6, and at the time I was the best German. But I would have had to pay money to ride a motorcycle, which is wrong. I never wanted to do that.

What did you do from there?

I worked once as a test driver for Fantic. Hobby wise, I had started to go to Supermoto, and in 2006 and 2007 I was a technician in the German Championship. There I supervised the likes of Patrick Unger, who now works in the World Championship, as well as Erik Hübsch and other rookies.

And in 2008 you started at Bridgestone in MotoGP.

I was previously a Bridgestone rider. Therefore, we knew each other well and at some point Thomas Scholz, coordinator at Bridgestone tyres, called me, and said that they already had Masao Azuma and Klaus Nöhles and needed more ex-racers as reinforcement. I found it very interesting and since then I've been with them.

What are your duties at Bridgestone?

I'm a kind of translator for our Japanese engineers. They know exactly which rubber compound and construction does what. And I, as a former racer, who can understand the riders best, try to then explain to the engineers what the riders' expectations are. This is written in a report with suggestions on what needs to be changed in order to develop the tyres.

Which riders have you worked with over the last few years?

Since I started I was always at Ducati. Only a year ago I managed a Honda. I have worked with riders like Elías, Kallio, Guintoli, De Puniet, Stoner, Hayden, Rossi and Barberá. So, many relatively well-known pilots. The funny thing is that I have many riders who I support today, who I know from before on the track. So we have a good relationship.

2012 was your last year at Bridgestone, and for the time being in the World Championship. What are the reasons for leaving and what are you going to do in the future?

The main reason is my family. I already missed quite a lot of my son growing up when I still raced. Now my daughter is the same age (5).

On the other hand, the job is not as interesting as it was in the beginning, when we still had tyre competition. Since one was still really involved in the development, one could pursue own ideas. Now, with the single tyre rule, one's hands are tied more or less. I need the competition.

Otherwise, I'm at home with my own business where we sell racing parts. Then I want to continue working in the junior area, i.e. with DM pocket bikes, mini bikes, and give young talents a chance. We prepare the bikes, but we are also on hand to give advice. Furthermore, we’ll continue the racing school at the Sachsenring to pave the way for youngster to get into the Championship.

Can you imagine one day returning to the MotoGP paddock?

I think so. When my daughter is in her teens and is bitchy, I’ll come back (laughs). But seriously, the next two or three years, I don’t think so.

MotoGP, 2013

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