Oscar Bolzonella - Suspension Technician

Oscar Bolzonella - Suspension Technician

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In modern MotoGP we continually hear of electronics, as ifsomething akin to magic could turn a mediocre pilot into a daredevil. As it often happens, reality is quite different: in racing, nothing is left to chance, nor does it come out As if by magic. Each result comes as a result of a long process -its details painstakingly researched - and success happens when each piece (the bike, the rider, the team, a bit of luck) slots into its proper place. Oscar Bolzonella is the details guy. Races are in his life since 1992, when he started with Aprilia Racing. Since than he has worked with dozens of riders, first as Mechanical Engineer and later, since 1997, as Chief Suspension Engineer.

In a digital world, made up of formulas and units, how important is the “Hardware” and specifically the suspension?

“Surely things have changed compared to a few years ago. Now the system control greatly affects the behavior of the bike, including the suspensions. The truth is that today you have to start from a good basis,overall, both on a mechanical and electronic base. Let’s say 80%. The difference is then made by the details, but without a good starting point it is impossible to even start.“

Is the pilot your main reference?

“Well, he’s the one who’s riding the bike, so the way he feels when he’s riding is effectively the most important thing. The essence is, though, that sometimes listning is not enough. There are times when you have to go beyond what your pilot is saying, and judge by what he’s doing. Experience helps contextualizing and interpreting. Every driver is different, both in the way they work and in the way they express themselves, so it’s paramount to establish a certain amount of trust and mutual understanding.”

It is easier to work with an experienced driver or a younger one?

“In my experience I realized that age is a non-discriminating factor. There are sensitive drivers and there are more impulsive, instinctual ones who are less attuned to the technical subtleties. Personally I was lucky to work with great champions, from Poggiali to Simoncelli, Melandri, Harada, plus a supreme tester as Marcellino Lucchi. Each of them had his way of dealing with the races.”

In addition to the result, what makes you happy at the end of a race?

“That there have been no problems with the suspensions. I feel keenly the responsibility of spending a weekend assembling and disassembling a critical part of a motorcycle - several times - and then seeing this same machine on the track for 300 laps, driven by somebody. I’d rather being told they don’t like a setting or they need improvement, than somebody getting hurt or falling because of me.”