Interview Part 2: KTM Crew Chief Paul Trevathan On Pol Espargaro - "He Gives Me 120%"

In part 1 of our interview with Paul Trevathan, crew chief to Red Bull KTM rider Pol Espargaro, Trevathan talked at length about the testing process, and the lengths to which KTM are going to try to catch up with the established factories in MotoGP. He covered traction, understanding how the Dunlop Moto2 rubber affects the Michelin MotoGP tires, and how KTM have adapted their testing strategy to optimize that. He talked about how KTM are approaching a turning point, where the focus is switching more towards refinement and away from radical steps and revolution.

In the second part, Trevathan examines the current state of the MotoGP championship, and what it means for KTM. He talks about working with Pol Espargaro, and the depth of commitment the Spaniard has demonstrated to try to push the program forward. He talks about the effect that has on him as a crew chief, but also about how Espargaro's willingness to push and risk can affect the other riders on the bike, and how hard it is to watch some riders struggle. And he opens up about how MotoGP is a team sport, dependent on having strong personnel in the team, but yet it is the rider who has to carry the burden of the media spotlight, in good times and in bad.

But Paul Trevathan picks up where he left off in part 1, by talking about just how incredibly competitive MotoGP is at this moment, and how that makes things tough, not just for KTM, but for everyone in the sport.

Paul Trevathan: What a time to come into the sport!

Q: Because it’s an attractive championship, there’s a really good reason to come into the sport. But the level is so high, there are no bad bikes anymore.

PT: No, and there’s no bad riders. This is the other reality. You see how hard everyone is pushing. You remember the days when the aliens were around, the four aliens. They had a bad day, they were fourth. You have a bad day now, you’re thirteenth in half a blink. It’s incredible. As a crew chief, I know how much effort Pol is putting in. It’s not nothing. He gets nothing for free. Even us, our little concession that we can test a bit more and have a couple engines, but it doesn’t help you on Sunday so much. It’s not like the other days when you had the extra soft tire, so you could still show something and get a sniff.

You learn so much more by racing those guys. So when you’re out of that window, like last year when Pol was hurt, you’re riding around, riding around, but you’re riding around pretty much by yourself. You’re not really learning what’s really missing. You get a feeling, you get an indication, but you just see the guys go away. The rider’s head drops a little bit. He gets a bit more frustrated. It’s much, much harder to go forward from that point.

Q: One of the most fascinating things for me is because your job is about managing the motorcycle, but so much of it is also about managing the rider. At this level 90% of it is…

PT: They can all do it. They’re all fantastic. Then it’s how the guy uses it at the moment.

Q: Is it easier now? KTM is making progress. Is it easier for you? Also because Pol, like you say, he can get a sniff of it. He’s close. He can feel he’s close.

PT: To be honest, this guy has been 100% fantastic from the moment he got on the bike. He knew what he was getting himself into. He knew it was going to be hard work. I think he 100% just promised himself that “I’ll give everything.” I’ve seen him be low. I’ve seen him have a hard time and it’s been frustrating, or when he’s been hurt. The last thing you want is your rider to be hurt, pushing a bike that you know is not good enough. But he did that all the time for us.

So I wouldn’t say that it’s got easier. What I see is the satisfaction. The guy is now been able to show what he can really do. So that part of it, and then we just go like this together. I read an interview on the Pol said we’re all starting to work as one even more and more and more. I agree 100% with this. You start to understand the body language when he gets off the bike. The electronic people understand when he says this. You really know his points now. And because he pushes so bloody hard, it’s real. It’s in the data. It’s not a feeling thing and "I don’t push because I don’t feel good. I don’t want to go past this point." He takes it to that limit. So it’s like, boom. There it is. This has been really good to work with.

Q: Aleix Espargaro made the comparison with Andrea Dovizioso, pointing out that Dovi has been there since 2013, and so much of it is just feedback loop of communication to understand better and better. It seemed like you and Pol sort of hit it off immediately.

PT: Yeah. We did. We’re quite similar. We like to laugh. We’re not the most serious two guys in the paddock, this is for sure. I always had a saying that if a rider gives me 100%, I’ll give him 120%. But if he gives me 90%, I’ll give him 60%. This bugger gives me 120%, so what do I got to do? This is reality. He’s easy. Also what I love about him is he doesn’t make up stories. It’s black and white with him. If he messes up, he says sorry. If I do it, it’s just an open book. And we do get on very good. It’s a joy to work with him, to be honest.

Q: As a journalist it’s hilarious because he’s terrible at lying.

PT: If you ask him the question, he cannot lie. Exactly right.

Q: His face turns red.

PT: Even Bradley [Smith] said he used to have to go and listen to him because there were so many things you weren’t allowed to say, and then he’d come afterwards and journalists would say, “Pol said,” and he would say, “What?” Brad said it made him look stupid, so it was better he go and listen to what Pol said first.

Q: He’s also a very emotional rider. Is that difficult to manage?

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Agree, one of the best interviews ever! The humanity, passion and intelligence of Paul is evident.

David, thank you yet again for bringing to life and inspiring us with the incredible human and technical endeavour of MotoGP.