Coaching MotoGP Riders from the sidelines
Since the opening round in Qatar, Avintia Racing has a new face in its team. Within the paddock, he is a well-known personality that has been involved in racing and in the management of teams and many different aspects of the paddock life for many years. We are talking of Angel Nieto Jnr., best known in the championship as Gelete.
The son of Angel Nieto, Spain’s famous 12+1 times World Champion, followed his father’s footsteps and went motorcycle racing, first in the 125cc European Championship in 1995. Two years later he got a place in the World Championship and completed his rookie season. In 1998, he joined Emilio Alzamora in the Aprilia Via Digital team. The following season, they switched to Honda and Alzamora won the title in the last race of the season, after scoring one more point than Marco Melandri. It was one point that Gelete had given to Emilio at the Australian Grand Prix some races before.
He competed until the end of 2001. Since then, he has been always involved in the paddock life, working for teams with his brother Pablo, and creating the GP Rooms, the unique hotel on wheels where many riders live during the European race weekends. This year, he started working for Avintia Racing. He helps Hector Barbera and Loris Baz as a riding coach, observing their riding style and the bike’s from the access roads at all the circuits.
“When Raul and Bocha asked me to join the team to help the riders, I liked the idea,” says Gelete as he follows the performances of Hector and Loris from Brno’s access road. “Here you can see things that are not possible to see on TV. I watch all the riders, not just Hector and Loris. I can see how the others do and with this information, I can help them to improve. I’ve been a racer, so I have clear ideas and for me it’s easy to compare lines and see who is going fast or slow.”
As you already should know, the role of Gelete in the team is “Riding Coach”, a job that is popular since Luca Cadalora started to do the same thing for Valentino Rossi. But it’s far from new in the championship: Alberto Puig used to coach Dani Pedrosa in the past, Randy Mamola does it for Smith, Crutchlow started to do the same for Binder. And there is Wilco Zeelenberg who is always next to the guardrail following Jorge Lorenzo,. Last but not least, there is Emilio Alzamora watching Marquez.
Gelete – Angel Nieto Jnr.
“I never rode a MotoGP bike, but I’ve been riding bikes for many years, so I can see a lot of things from the access road. If one riders goes wide, how they use the gears, how the traction control works, how they lift the bike and at which point and how they use their body to get drive out of the turns…” says Angel Nieto’s first son.
“We are working with Hector in this way, because he needs to use his body as the others do. Hector didn’t hang off the bike too much, but he has started to change his style and we can see improvements at every race. From the track, you can see clearly that Lorenzo is like a robot, using the exactly same line hundred times. You can also see how smooth Pedrosa is, the experience of Valentino, Marc’s courage… It is easy to see how the fastest guys do it and then I try to transmit everything I saw from trackside in the best possible way to my riders. It’s easy to work with Hector, we have connected really well and he understands what I say. Race by race it’s obvious that what I see on the track is really useful and we are improving.”
The coach’s duties are important for the riders. From their perspective, they can only see what the rider ahead is doing, but from the access road it’s easy to watch all the rivals. With the comments of Gelete, it’s possible to try different lines or use different traction control settings to get the best drive in corner exit. There are many things that you can’t see on the data, but that an expert eye can see from the back of the guardrail.
“Gelete is doing a great job and I get massive help from him. In the first races I though that his comments would be useless, but then I realised he is helping me to improve at every race. When I see I have problems at one sector of the track, he goes there to watch. He is a former rider, so he is able to do a quick comparison with other riders,” says Barbera, who gets the maximum out of his Avintia Racing Ducati GP14.2 so far this season. “He can see if I’m running half a metre wide in the corner entry, if I’m gearing up early or late, if I’m consistent lap by lap… from the trackside, he can see many things. Also he’s a really good communicator, he is a true Nieto! Gelete is able to transmit exactly what he watches on the track. Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible for him to see things that you only feel when you are riding the bike.”
Loris Baz has been working with his personal coach, Adrien Morillas, for a long time, but it’s always helpful to have more eyes watching on the circuit.
“The work Gelete is doing this season for the team is not something new for me, I always had a trainer working with me at the track, watching my lines, and I think, I probably was one of the first using this method with Adrien Morillas, who was also at Brno last weekend”, explains Avintia Racing’s French rider after his fantastic fourth place at the Czech Republic Grand Prix. “But this year with Gelete, I have four eyes on the track instead of just two. This is something really helpful for me as a rider, as he can see stuff you can’t see in the data. He watches the other riders and then you can try to do the same. You need time working with your coach, because you need to build trust and get confidence, and he has to know what you need to improve. With Adrien, it’s easy after thirteen years. But at the races to which Adrien didn’t come this season, Gelete comments were very useful, and what he’s doing is good for the team”.