At Valencia last year, working for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder, I interviewed Valentino Rossi's crew chief Silvano Galbusera. The interview lived up to expectations, providing a fascinating insight into working with the nine-time world champion, and the pressures of replacing legendary crew chief Jeremy Burgess as Rossi's right-hand man. Today, we publish the first part of the interview. The second part will be published on Thursday.
Q: It's been a big change for you coming here, perhaps the biggest challenge of your career. You have to replace Jeremy Burgess, and you have to work with Valentino Rossi. How has it been for you?
Silvano Galbusera: In the beginning, I worried about the situation, because Jeremy Burgess everybody knows is at the top. And also Valentino, Italian rider, great champion, so. The media, everyone, they want to know everything from Vale. So it's a bit critical, because I'm not experienced in MotoGP, coming from Superbike. First test it was so so, but after when we go to winter test, Malaysia, day by day we find a good opportunity to do well, with the team and everything. Because everyone is a lot experienced, is very high level, and they don't need to follow in every single moment, they know everything what they need to do, just to give them some paper and they follow everything. Then with Vale, we speak Italian, it's a little bit more easy to understand. And it was day by day more easy, more relaxed, to get the result at the category.
Q: So by the time you reached Qatar you were a good strong unit?
SG: Yes, but the problem is every weekend we learn a little bit. And now we have a good level, we are very close to Honda, we need to restart the season now, to understand the situation from Marquez and him. But unfortunately we take a time to understand, to make everything working well, and then we modify bike setting, geometry, position, so... It was a good job, but we would like to start again next season.
Q: So next season will be the first year in which you will really get to compete?
SG: Yes, what I understood from Vale, he want to move the target to the top level. So I hope we finish second in the championship, so if you want to improve the result from this season, there's only one position, one possibility! [Laughs] It's a very very high target, especially with the top four riders all very strong, and every race you need to be not 100% but more than 100%. And you need to have the perfect bike for the situation, also you need to do a good practice, because sometimes in this year we arrived to have a good bike on Sunday. Maybe the next year we need to start also Friday to have a base set up and working well. So not so easy, but we are ready.
Q: Do you think that qualifying is an area which Valentino needs to work on? Because sometimes he seems to struggle to be so fast right from the start.
SG: In the beginning, yes, but if you were to race now and the first few laps he's ready to fight. But the problem is the bike set up is not ready for qualifying. Also the last race at Sepang, we found something in warm up, and then we improve it a bit more in the race, but in qualifying, it was 80% of our potential, and in this moment, Valentino cannot push to get a good position.
Q: Is there a big difference between MotoGP and World Superbikes in terms of your job as a crew chief?
SG: No, the job is very close. The problem is the level, the level in MotoGP is very high. We need to be concentrated in every single modify you want to do on the bike. Every single change we make here makes a big difference. And the rider, you need to have everything perfect to do your best, this is the problem. In Superbike, if the bike is 90%, the rider can make a big difference. Here, if you don't have a good bike, you make only disaster.
Q: So the rider has to be perfect, the bike has to perfect, or someone else will be better than you?
SG: The small difference between the top four rider you need to recover it by the bike, by the set up. If you miss something, one tenth every lap, at the end of the race it is two seconds. So it's too big. We think one tenth is nothing, but it's unbelievable, the difference between winning and being third.
Q: Has the team changed its way of working? Has the team adapted to you, or have you adapted to the team?
SG: I don't know in the past, but this year, I have very good help from the guys in the team, from Matteo [Flamigni, data engineer], from the Japanese. I try to learn very quickly the system of MotoGP, but without the help from the guys, it was impossible. They help me a lot, and then suggest some small problems they had last year, to try to fix and concentrate on that to try to help the performance, and it was a good help. I reduce the time to be on this level...
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