Five Minutes With Sylvain Guintoli's Crew Chief Lez Pearson
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Crew Chief Lez Pearson's well-established career spans national and international championships, having worked in BSB, 500cc GP and WorldSBK over the past 20 years.
A consistent member of the Crescent Racing squad for the past decade, 2016 sees Pearson partner Sylvain Guintoli as Yamaha returns the YZF-R1 back to the top flight of production motorcycle competition. Yamaha Racing caught up with Pearson on his return home from Phillip Island's opening round of the season to discuss the new focus this year.
Lez, this is your fifth season in the FIM Superbike World Championship. Having yourself moved up from the British Superbike Championship, can you explain the main differences needed to adapt the YZF-R1 from its national title-winning production-spec base, to those required to challenge competitively on the world stage?
"The tracks are totally different and generally a lot faster in the world championship compared to the ones in the UK, also the competition is much stronger and deeper so the bikes have to perform at a higher level just to achieve the same results respectively. There is, generally, more budget in WorldSBK so your bikes are built to a higher spec and with the involvement of the Factory-run teams basically everything has to be at a far higher level to compete consistently and remain with the front group at every round."
Phillip Island saw the return of Yamaha to the WorldSBK paddock with the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team. What are your overall reflections on the opening weekend, with the bike, team and Sylvain's performance? What positives can you take from such a promising first event, and what are you looking to further develop as the season progresses?
"The first event was very positive for us, especially as the bike is still at such an early stage of development. In terms of outright performance we must continue to improve compared to the competition, but as a new project we have only had four tests compared to the years of experience all the other teams have with their respective machines! That being said, the YZF-R1's potential was better than first could have been imagined and Sylvain's efforts were extremely encouraging in Australia, with a top-five and top-six result. We need to work hard with what we have now while waiting for improvements but it's been a very good start to the season!"
What will be your main focus when adapting the YZF-R1 from the set-up used at Phillip Island to those needed for Thailand's Chang International Circuit next weekend and why?
"Chang is quite a different circuit and Phillip Island is quite special - we are going from a flowing layout to a more stop/start type track so the bike will need to be better on the brakes than the setting we used in Australia. We need to make the most of the braking areas at Chang and use the R1's strong points as effectively as we can."
Can you provide an insight to the job of a Crew Chief throughout a race weekend - what are your typical schedules and responsibilities day-by-day, how did the Phillip Island event run for you and what are your preparations now in the run up to round two?
"It's not the glamourous job people think it is and there are a lot of long hours! Phillip Island for example saw a 3am finish one night! As an event it went quite smoothly for me and everything worked out well but it's not always that easy. As Chief Engineer I am responsible for the day-to-day running of my side of the team, from simple organizational things like what time we leave in the morning, to what tire plan were going to run in the next session - there can be quite a lot of pressure over the weekend and stress levels can run quite high. I work with the engineers from Yamaha, Ohlins and Pirelli to find the best solutions together, but ultimately it is my responsibility to put the bike onto the track with the best setting possible. I have already been working hard since PI analyzing what happened in the races and where we could gain time while also planning for round two and deciding the start point setting of the bike. As Chief Engineer it's my job to use my experience and decide the start setting for the event and work forward from there."
What is your favorite circuit on the WorldSBK calendar and which do you think will suit the YZF-R1 the best?
"My favorite circuit is probably Laguna Seca, it has everything, good weather, exciting circuit and I love America, all the Italian rounds are nice also - good weather makes a big difference! Regarding the bike, with the performance character of the R1 Donnington will be a strong race for us, which as our home round will be great for the whole team, riders and our partners."
Pearson will join the rest of his Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand later this week as Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes get back to action for round two of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship on Saturday 12th March.