Though MotoGP fans around the world focus on their favorite riders, there is a growing awareness of the importance of the crews that surround those riders, as witnessed by the constant harassment that Rossi's mechanic Alex Briggs received from his many followers on Twitter. As MotoGP bikes grow ever more complex, the role of the pit crew becomes ever more important, and the trust between rider and crew has become paramount.
This shift has led to most of the top riders switching teams this year also ensuring that they will be bringing their pit crews along with them. Valentino Rossi will be bringing Jerry Burgess and his Australian (and Belgian and Italian) crew members with him from Yamaha to Ducati; Casey Stoner will be taking Cristian Gabbarini and his Italian crew to Honda from Ducati; and even Ben Spies will be taking his former AMA pit crew and Yamaha World Superbike manager to the factory Yamaha squad next year.
During the rider debriefs on Thursday, several members of the press asked Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi to talk about the importance of taking their crews with them to their new teams. Casey Stoner had the most to say on the subject, and so his replies are shown first, while Valentino Rossi's responses were shorter, and are shown further below:
Q: Next year you'll be taking Cristian (Gabbarini) and a few of your guys from Ducati to Honda with you. How important is that, to have those guys around you, as you've obviously been working with them for a long time?
Casey Stoner: Yes, well, to me, they are my guys, they're my family, so I know that they would follow me through volcanoes and everything, you know. I love them as much as they love me, and we have become such a family in there, that there was really no question whether we seperate or not during the season. We had to, not so much play down all the rumors going around, but you know, weren't able to, but there was no doubt ever that they weren't coming with me, making our own team, forming our own team.
And the way things have gone, you know, it has just been fantastic for us. I have had a great four years with them and I didn't want it to end with Ducati but just the way things went, was the way it went. And on to new horizons.
Q: This whole team thing, especially over the past three, four years, has become more and more important. Because Ben has now got all his team in Yamaha. You are taking your team to Honda. Valentino is bringing his team here. What's changed that the team has become so much more important?
CS: I guess over the years, to be honest, riders have created more and more power for themselves. More bargaining power with teams, things like this, so they have had the option to take their teams along. And the teams normally had all the mechanics pretty wrapped up with contracts, and things like that as well, I am sure. And I think also these days it is especially important for the amount of track time we get compared to what they used to.
You know, it's so critical to get such a setup on these machines, you just can't brake an extra 15 meters later, and make up a heap of ground, things like that. It's so critical these days to get everything right. And with a team that knows you and a team that you're comfortable with surrounding you, it makes things a lot easier. Especially with the lack of testing time, and things like that. Every bit of information we put to them, they know exactly what to do. You don't have to slowly get used to them, a new team every year, or every time you change.
Also in the past, riders used to stay with teams for quite a long time. So it didn't seem like everybody was taking their people with them. But they were in the same team normally for quite a long time, so they weren't actually changing as it was.
Q: How important is trust with your team?
CS: Definitely a big part of it. I mean, I know, sitting in the part of the garage that we do, we get to watch a lot of people work over the years, and we have had only a select amount of mechanics that I am very happy to sit down watching. The fact that I don't have to watch them, I don't feel like I'm watching over my mechanics, but I feel that some of them aren't quite as trustworthy as others, you know, like I said, we're in the perfect seat to sit down and watch them work and do everything during the session.
And I've never ever been surprised at anything my guys have done in the last four years. They have just been absolutely immaculate, almost absolutely no mistakes and you know, extremely high record for that. It's definitely a nice thing to not have to worry about that each time you go out on track. You know everything is done up, it's tight. You know, going the speeds we do, trust is a big thing.
Q: When did you inform them about your intention to move?
CS: During the testing period, it wasn't the intention to move, but the possibility of it was there. To understand what they would and wouldn't do basically. And that was pretty much it.
Q: That was at the beginning of the season. February, Sepang?
CS: No, March or April, sort of thing, around the tests, towards the first race. So, I just informed them of it, there were no decisions made then. I just wanted to know what they thought, and that was exactly what we sort of expected, to be honest.
Valentino Rossi: For me it's very important, and I know that for the guys, especially for Jeremy, it's a completely new adventure another time, so is also a life choice. But at the end Jerry and all the guys say yes. I'm very happy because they bring a lot of experience, and we stay and have a great atmosphere into our box. It's ten years or eleven years that we work together. So at the end of this year, is the same time than with Mick, so I want to make more.
Q: When you left Honda for Yamaha, you were willing to go without Jerry or the crew. Is it any different this time? Would you still have gone to Ducati without them?
VR: Yes. It was very different because from Honda to Yamaha for Jerry and the guys was more a technical problem. This time it's more a life problem. So I cannot say nothing more, I say to Jerry "Just take your time and decide," but yes, I would go without the team for sure.