Tired of twiddling his thumbs during the winter off-season following an intense conclusion to the 2020 MotoGP™ Championship, which saw his rider become a World Champion, Crew Chief Frankie Carchedi is eager to get back into action as he plots a route to successive titles for the Hamamatsu factory.
Coming into this season as the defending Champions with even grander ambitions, a bike that is the envy of the paddock and the exit of Team Manager Davide Brivio, there was plenty up for discussion as Carchedi addressed the media.
Naturally, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was the main point of conversation, from his development as a rookie to MotoGP™ Champion as a sophomore, and what the future holds for the Mallorcan rider?
“We knew from day one that he had something special, we could see it from the very first race,” said Carchedi.
“I don’t think he ever changed from the beginning. He knew what he wanted, I’m not sure everyone believed him, but we for sure did. The focus was there from day one.”
While remembering when Mir first joined the Suzuki family, Carchedi pointed out that he didn’t have the greatest of starts to life in the premier class, but the pressure of that poor run of form only helped build the character he needed to challenge for world titles.
“I think he thrives on pressure. If anything, the one advantage we had was after Qatar (in 2019), I think we went on a run of six or seven races and we didn’t score a point. He got run off the track in Mugello, he had a false start in Austin, then the freak accident in Brno. It was like, wow, we were building pressure as we weren’t getting points on the table. It sort of allowed him in 2020 to say things are going well, it was a relief, things were going better, it wasn’t the first time in MotoGP™ that we had pressure. Right from the start, what happened then, if anything, helped him.”
Coming into 2021 as a Champion, are we likely to see anything different in how Mir will approach the race? It is unlikely according to his Crew Chief.
“I don’t think he’ll change his approach. One thing we did right from the start, and even throughout the year, was one race at a time, one session at a time.”
“Not having won a race in 2019 helped because the target was we wanted to achieve a podium, and then win a race. So, it wasn’t right until the end, where he won a race for the first time in Valencia, we said let’s think about the Championship.”
One thing he found very frustrating when he first started was, he had a lot of bad passes on him, he brakes really late so other riders tend to block pass him or take him off the track. I think it happened two or three times that first year when he was run off the track.”
“I’d like to think being a World Champion is an advantage, there might be a bit more respect, so they think they can’t completely run him off the track. But who knows in MotoGP™?”
Perhaps emphasizing that there won’t be any change in his mentality is the fact that Mir decided to continue sporting the number ‘36’ on his bike rather than the Champions ‘1’, something which Carchedi was pleased about.
“One of my first Championship wins I was '36'. In fact, one of the funniest things when we first met was, we had the same phone passcode, and that’s a little bit to do with our history! 36 was always my lucky number and if you can read between the lines you can know what number I liked!”
It’s clear that the pair hold a close relationship, and Carchedi spoke openly about it, saying that despite maybe being too close to one another at times, the family atmosphere between in the team and within the larger Suzuki garage itself is key to the success they have experienced to date.
“First thing I said to him is we’re going to be 100% open and honest, whether it is him or the bike. From day one we had every scenario going, sometimes there was something he wasn’t doing right, sometimes I’m not doing something right, and even now there are certain times we really struggle but we figure it out. The honesty allows us to explore a little bit more.”
“I think it is a good thing, even the pressure of the Championship, I remember going to his motorhome the Saturday night (of the 2020 Valencia GP) and the idea was to talk about the race and we ended up ordering a kart each! We have a lot of interests off track as well and we talk regularly so I think it is a real positive thing!”
Despite Alex Rins’ claims that he feels like the number one rider within the Suzuki garage, Carchedi offered a different point of view.
“In Suzuki, there is no number one or number two rider, we’re a small factory and very family orientated. It is equal machinery, we give them the best of everything and they get the same support. Maybe one rider has more requests but we just go through it. We want both riders at the front and if one of them can be at the top of the tree then fantastic.
"The Suzuki way is we want to improve the bike so both riders get an advantage. To be honest, the emphasis is on Suzuki over individual glory. I would love to see Joan win the Championship, but if he can’t and Alex does then I would still be extremely happy. In the ideal situation, they would be fighting each other.”
The family atmosphere is more crucial than ever following the departure of former Team Manager Davide Brivio from the outfit, but Carchedi forms part of a new committee that has been tasked with filling the void left by the Italian, and he feels the transition has gone quite smoothly so far.
“It’s difficult to appreciate at the moment. What I would say is rather than going through the channels, at the moment, we are going directly to Sahara. It hasn’t changed too much, but we have to see how the season starts but now it is working well.”
Despite coming into this season with a bike that many rivals have said is the best in the paddock, Carchedi echoes sentiments from both riders and Project Leader that there are still improvements to be found despite the engine freeze, particularly during Qualifyings.
"I’d be lying if I didn’t say grid position was one of the areas we were looking at over Christmas, but in the Suzuki way, we never emphasize a specific area. We improve little by little but it always about the all-round package.”
“In theory, the higher we are up the grid, the easier it should be but the difficulty is not to lose any advantage in the race but improve our Qualifying. We improved last year, we made Q2 directly about 90% of the time. So this is a step forward, what we need to do now is give him a little extra for the race.”
Following comments made by Luigi Dall’Igna about the simplicity of the GSX-RR helping the Hamamatsu factory’s cause at the Ducati Lenovo Team Presentation, Carchedi responded by quoting one of the most renowned names in motorsport before reciting his own playground philosophy.
“I’m a great believer in the famous saying from Enzo Ferrari that the best car breaks down as you cross the checkered flag, if it wins it wins, whether it’s simple or the most complex. I appreciate Gigi’s comments. I love innovation and technicalities, it’s one of the beauties of our sport. I’m the first to walk down the pitlane and look for new things. Again, another famous saying we have in England, when playing football, keep it simple stupid, it’s the balance between being too simple and too complicated. It’s about finding a compromise and best solution possible.”