-- Intro - This is another regular column from
a young mechanic that many people in the
Australian Superbike paddock would have
come across before. Indy Sam worked for
Paul Free and Team Honda for a number of
years before taking the plunge and
heading overseas to gain more experience
in the big pond of World Championship
motorcycle racing. This year Indy is
working for the MZ Racing Team as
mechanic to Max Neukirchner.
- Opposites End
We came to Jerez fresh and ready for anything, we left Jerez destroyed and ready for bed but happy! It was a weekend which we all did not quite expect and it finished better than we expected.
We had prepared a new bike for Max by Friday, making changes and putting new stuff on which we were all excited about. Unfortunately, he crashed in a big way during the last Friday session, thankfully he wasn’t hurt although the bike needed a full rebuild.
Actually on the tv replay we saw Max run over to the bike after the crash to pick up the tank broken off it and slowly walk away cradling it in his arms like a baby. It was clear Max appreciated every piece of his bike as he had worked so hard to get the new parts for all of us to improve, I haven’t seen this in a while.
We had received three brand new wheels on Wednesday but unfortunately he destroyed one cracking it all around like an egg shell in this crash. We stripped the bike down to nothing and brought it back to life with a few hours sleep the next morning ready to attack the qualifying session that afternoon.
He started off with used tyres to get into the rhythm and warm up in the first minutes of qualifying, we then threw in a fresh set and cut him loose, he was doing great in all three sectors of his first lap but then went missing off the screens.
All our guts went upside down, and then Marc our other mechanic and I slowly walked off to search for the bike, we weren’t disappointed when we found the mess of parts. The second brand new wheel was also destroyed in this crash, the person most affected by this tragic news was Heath, our tyre guy. We didn’t finish the qualifying session as a result and ended 36th.
It was worse than the crash on Friday, but the main thing was Max didn’t get hurt. He was devastated though, he felt horrible that he destroyed the bike yet again and that we would have to work another late night, he was really sorry about it. In fact he was hesitant to come inside the box and approach us, like a child who done something wrong and knew he was in trouble. We all gave him a big hug and said it was our job to fix the bike and that it wasn’t a problem, he’s a pretty decent bloke and these sorts of things make us all closer. We worked throughout the night dismissing sleep to make an absolutely brand new bike thanks to Red Bull, it ended up being carbon black with red numbers, fully Mad Max style!
When Max came in that morning he was stoked and couldn’t believe the bike, we were all pretty excited for the race as it had started raining, which gave us half a chance of a decent result. Ant West actually carved through the field in the first part of the race up to 7th position, Max slowly got into his rain pace and picked his way through getting us all excited as he progressed forward. Unfortunately Ant’s visor started fogging up badly midrace to the point where he could barely see which made him drop his position and on the last lap Max passed him making it a 10th and 11th finish. It felt like a win for us as we all jumped for joy on the pit walls nearly falling off onto the main straight! We were all wrapped, it was a hectic weekend but the finish made it all worth the effort. It was his best result so far and we now have more confidence for the following races.
There was plenty of music we could hear during each night at the circuit, mainly because the Jerez race is a huge festival for the people there and they blast their disco beats till the sun comes up. We wanted to go outside to take a look if we had time on one of the nights as there are lots of stalls and things to buy, we had a chance on Sunday morning at 7am once the bike was finished but we were too buggered, there’s always next year. We bundled up in the van after packing up the pit box and drove straight out of Jerez towards Italy arriving on Tuesday afternoon as we had to pick up some things in Spain on the way. There is quite a bit of work to do in the break before the next race, nobody wants to lose any more ground on the others and there are some things to tidy up on the Mad Max machine.
There were a few things we learnt this weekend about Max and one was that he seems to be more like a weekend racer who races with his family, he really cares when he destroys things and feels bad for others, so we couldn’t help but become more like a family towards him. I remember when he was in WSBK and I came up to him before I knew him on Sunday after packing up with my team and asked if he had any Energy drinks laying around in the Suzuki Truck, he said no and to come on Thursday instead next time. At the following race he rocked up to my pit box with a bag full of Energy Drinks and snacks, I was completely shocked, but he’s the type of guy who cares about these sorts of things as we are all getting reminded of.
Well next up is Estoril so we will see what we can do with a bit of fine tuning. It’s getting warmer here in Italy, just in case you’re wondering why I haven’t complained about the winter, we’ve actually been able to go jogging a few times, ok Charlie only once! Take it easy and ride safe.