Öhlins and Racing go hand in hand, with the iconic gold and yellow units becoming synonymous with track success, particularly in the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships. But as we all know, races are not just won with technology…
To maintain this high performance level and ensure they continue their winning ways, a dedicated team of highly trained technicians travel the globe as part of the travelling circus to work on these exotic machines - but what exactly does it take to keep these machines at the front of the pack? We caught up with MotoGP Logistics Co-ordinator Mark Hardisty…
"People probably do not realise just how much it takes to make sure we have the best racing products available.
In MotoGP we have thirteen full-time members of staff, with a real mix of nationalities – there is one Swede, four English, one Irish, one Scottish, one Australian, two New Zealanders, one Belgian (who speaks seven languages!), a Spaniard and an Italian. In World Superbikes there are four – an American, Swede, Austrian and Englishman.
"There is a number of reasons why we have such a mix of nationalities, firstly it helps to have a mix of different languages, but it is mostly down to simply finding the very best and most experienced people for the job. We also find that people from different countries all think differently too."
In MotoGP, Öhlins use two articulated trailers for every European race meeting and test session. These are used for all the service work and to repair any units that have suffered crash damage. For World Superbikes, one rigid truck is taken to each of the fourteen rounds in the series.
"In total, between the race meetings, tests and travelling time we're away for 34 weekends a year – that includes four weekends at the start of the year preparing the trucks and stocking the parts, as we do not return to the factory all season. We also spend two to three weeks at the end of the year checking stock and servicing the trucks. We usually pack up for winter and return home around the 5th of December, and return to Sweden on the 5th January – so our winter break is not as long as people might think!"
"Because the trucks don't return to the factory in Sweden, we stay out on the road with them for the entire season. Between races we quite often park them at the circuits before and after the meetings, which is all arranged at the start of the year with the help of the International Road Race Team Association (IRTA). Should we need any parts throughout the season then we have them sent to our German R+D Centre at the Nürburgring, where we also occasionally stay."
Mark is one of two drivers of the MotoGP trucks and everything is meticulously planned to ensure that they reach their destinations on time, meaning they are completely self-sufficient when on the road, even staying in the cab of the trucks when away from the circuits. The actual suspension units are carried by the teams themselves between races, with each Öhlins rider typically having five sets of forks and five shocks.
"A typical schedule for a European round sees us arrive at the circuit around 4pm on the Tuesday before. We arrive with the MotoGP support trucks and once parked the first thing to do is connect the power so we have internet and the TV for track feed, clean the truck, service and empty work stations, check gas and oil supplies so we're ready to go.
"Thursday is the day the teams begin to bring their suspension from the last race to the trailer for any crash inspections or service work. The technicians then go to their respective teams and begin to discuss the set up for the first free practice session on Friday. Depending on the work load Thursday can finish quite late – often anytime between 8pm to 10pm. It is a similar story on Friday and Saturday.
"Sunday's are actually a little easier as most of the set up should now be sorted, although it is often an early start to avoid the crowds – particularly at some of the Spanish rounds which can have over 100,000 spectators on the Sunday alone. After the races the technicians then have a meeting with the teams and riders to discuss the results before they then head to the airport around 6pm, leaving me and Alan to pack away the trailers and secure everything for the next journey."
"For the six flyaway races, we send flight boxes with enough spare parts to deal with any situation. The technicians work from cabin style workshops at the back of the pit garages – we try to encourage the Moto2 and Moto3 teams to have routine service work done before we leave as we have more space and equipment with the two trucks, but everything that we can do at the European rounds can still be done at the fly-aways.
Although it is a tough job that can see him away from friends and family for long periods of time, Mark still would not change a thing, "Of course there are hard times, I enjoy the lifestyle road but for those with families maybe being away from home for so long is tough, and when we have tragedy's such as the accidents that saw Tomizawa and Simoncelli lose their lives, but that aside it is still my dream job.
"Some of my best memories are travelling the world and arriving at race tracks I had only ever seen on TV before. It is always a special moment watching one of our riders win the race, and even more so when they secure a Championship. One of the most spectacular scenes we witness every year is the track invasion at Mugello– the chanting and cheers when Valentino takes to the podium is deafening, it's unreal to see how much he means to his legions of fans worldwide."