Interview: Veteran Crew Chief Gilles Bigot, Part 2 - On The Lessons Learned & Not Learned In Moto2, On Thumb Brakes, And On How Hard The Honda Is

Gilles Bigot, the French crew chief of Marc VDS MotoGP rider Tom Lüthi, has been in MotoGP a long time. In that time, he has seen a lot of riders come and go, and learned an awful lot about racing. At Jerez, I spoke to the Frenchman about the process of adapting to MotoGP. What started out as an attempt to get to the bottom of the problems Tom Lüthi faces in his switch to MotoGP after spending so many years in Moto2 became something much deeper, and much more interesting. We ended up speaking for half an hour, all of which was fascinating.

The first part of the interview covered three changes which he had seen from close up: the switch from 500cc two strokes to the four-stroke MotoGP bikes; the move to Moto2; and Kenan Sofuoglu's aborted attempt to make the jump from the World Supersport class to Moto2. You can read that part of the interview here.

But after talking about those changes, we went on to discuss Tom Lüthi's switch from Moto2 to MotoGP, and the difficulties the Swiss rider faced in making the jump. Lüthi is a proven winner and championship contender in Moto2, but he has struggled in the premier class. Bigot talked in great depth about the lessons which can be learned in Moto2 to prepare a rider for MotoGP, about what Moto2 doesn't teach riders, and how hard the Honda makes the transition to Moto2.

It had helped that Bigot had been working with Lüthi for several years previously. Bigot had been in the same team as Lüthi before becoming his crew chief two years ago, and so knew the Swiss rider relatively well. They had success together in Moto2, and that has made it easier for Bigot to guide Lüthi in MotoGP. But there is still a lot of work to do.

Gilles Bigot: I started to work with him two years ago, but we were already in the same team. Basically I could see what he was doing. So when Fred Corminboeuf asked if we could switch, I said okay. Then we start with Tom, and I said, okay, I see how you work. I have my own way of working. I’m an old-fashioned guy, let’s say. A little bit like Guy Coulon, a little bit laid back and everything. I said, if we work together, I just suggest I’m going to tell you what I’ve got to propose you. And you tell me if you agree or not. And he said, yes. Basically I said, you stop to be a technician and start to be a rider, and I will be the technician, is that OK? Yes!

So basically let’s say the difficulty Tom is still having now, is like for so many other riders, even in Moto2 even until last year, we were able to make some changes. He’s still riding his bike a little bit too much on the rear. This is a big issue. We have been able to move him on the bike. Not too much really in technical side, but pushing, persuading, let’s say. 'We don’t touch the bike until you don’t really make the effort.'

So little bit by little bit it’s coming, but at the same time it’s not easy because the bike is quite physical to ride. There is a lot of power in MotoGP. And like the Grand Prix in Austin with the new surface, going so fast, it was quite bumpy. So difficult, it takes a lot from the rider. It can take your confidence away, because the bikes are so physical, and sometimes even, I shouldn't say the word, but sometimes dangerous.

You are very close to disaster, when the bike starts wobbling in the straight like we had in the warm up. He came and he said, I almost crashed in the straight. Then you look at the data and you go, wow. But he was not the only one. Experienced riders are already used to it, they know it’s shaking, so they know how to behave. For him, he’s just like, you roll off the throttle because you don’t really know how to solve this problem because this is new. So that was a difficult weekend for sure.

Q: How does a rider have to adapt between Moto2 and MotoGP? Do riders learn anything in Moto2 for MotoGP?

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I think that it has become more difficult every year, as it is built around a single rider, MM93, and just as difficult this year. Dani can't ride it anymore, becuase he cant heat the front tyre either. Cal can manage but he is on the edge of disaster every race, and its win it or bin it for him. Any new rider like Luthi must have a really hard time. And if they continue with the design principle for next year, then Jorge will take a year to refine it before he gets results like on the Ducati, and no doubt suffer some fairly serious high sides in the process.