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“THESE ARE THE TOOLBOX GUYS”

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toolbox1 By Eric Johnson

It was a sunny Saturday morning on September nineteen, 1981, and up on a hill in Mid-Ohio Motocross Park sat a lone yellow Team Yamaha container van. The back doors were open up, and inside the dark, cramped recesses was a man dressed in some sort of baggy overall welding suit, quietly travelling the #100 YZ250 race bicycle. He was cleaning dried dirt off it with a rag as well as a spray bottle of Windex. That man was Keith McCarty, and along with his rider, Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, they made up the most feared plus formidable factory motocross racing energy in the entire world.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW

Flash-forward 36 many years to the asphalt parking lot encircling Angel Stadium. Keith McCarty remains at Team Yamaha, but elements have changed a bit. Instead of a package van, overalls and Windex, McCarty is dressed in well-fitting official Yamaha team wear and taking a sort of mental inventory of the 18-wheel partial that serves as the mother ship for your Monster Energy/Yamalube/ Chaparral/Yamaha Financial Services/Yamaha Factory Racing team.

Beneath the sprawling awning are the #22 and #2 race bikes of team riders Chad Reed plus Cooper Webb. Attending to both the bicycles and racers are eight associates who, along with Keith McCarty, make this multi-million-dollar racing effort go. Welcome to the life of the nine men exactly who serve as the pit crew of Team Yamaha. Collectively, these nine Yamaha employees have put in more than 140 years with the company. But , if you add up all of their motocross racing experience, that number more than doubles.

toolboxgosselaar

“The eight other guys you see here today, that’s the toolbox of the team, ” says Yamaha team manager Jimmy Perry. “There are many people in this organization who do not come to the races every weekend because they are at the shop doing elements or they have other responsibilities, but these guys are the people building bikes every day, making parts better, dealing with our engineers and addressing problems to allow us to always move forward. These are the toolbox guys—the nut products and bolts. ”

In this modern era of the 450cc four-stroke factory motocross bike, with the advancements in technology, the days of just one man, one rider and one bicycle have gone the way of the dinosaur.

MXA wanted to understand exactly what these nine men do—not only on race day yet on the rest of the days of the year. So , we spent a race day with Yamaha’s toolbox guys plus let them explain the modern realities of the factory race team.


KEITH MCCARTY

YAMAHA MOTORSPORTS RACING MANAGER

40 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

toolboxkeith

“What I do is a mixture of being a fireman and a forecaster. There are day-to-day things, and there are matters we have to do after every event. There is always something that needs attention. I have a lot of really good people on this team, so I don’t need to be involved in every thing; however , I also know stuff needs to be in a particular order, so I want to be involved. This is a business. It’s a corporation, so we have employee items to deal with, and we have legal people we deal with, and we have to employ contractors. There is a lot going on. Regardless of whether it’s a private team or a factory team, this certainly is a business. We have budgets we have to be careful associated with and partners that we need to take care of—all that kind of stuff.

“ There are day-to-day elements, and there are things we have to perform after every event. There is always something that needs attention. I have a lot of really good people on this team, so I do not need to be involved in everything; however , I also know stuff needs to be in a particular order, so I want to be involved. This is a business. It’s a corporation, and we have employee things to deal with, and we have legal people we deal with, and we have to hire contractors. There exists a lot going on. Whether it’s a private team or a factory team, this certainly is a business. We have costs we have to be careful of and companions that we need to take care of—all that will kind of stuff.

“I obviously watch our guys in practice and look at the times. I think I possess something to offer in terms of overcoming obstructions or what it might take for our guys to keep moving forward. I try not to be ‘that guy’ who gets within everybody’s face, but if I have something that I think is valuable, I definitely want to let everybody know, after which they can choose what they do with it. There are a variety of guys on the team, and am appreciate their opinions and encounters. We try to check most of the boxes.

“When it comes to dealing with the riders, I try to work with our riders on a small degree. What I’m trying to do is definitely pass the baton to the man who is in their corner, like I used to be. Whether it is Mike Gosselaar or Eric Gass, I think that union associated with mechanic and rider is very important. The particular mechanic is the last person to see the rider before the race starts; these people get the last five minutes of the rider’s time before the race. It’s important what you say to them. You need to help remind them that you are there for them—win, lose or draw. I attempt to have a personal relationship with our guys and to have an open-door policy therefore i can say what I need to say. At the end of the day, I need to look in their eyes, and I need to know that we’re most on the same page. ”


JIMMY PERRY

YAMAHA TEAM SUPERVISOR

14 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

toolboxperry

“This is my 14th season along with Yamaha. I do a lot of things on the group. I work with Keith and Paul in regards to budget and forecasting the money being spent and money coming in. I take care of all the logistics in regards to the team travel. I work with Ron Heben in regards to the overall look of the team—things like tents, awnings and crew shirts and all those types of items. I work with certain vendors in regards to the look of the bikes and points we need to have done for that. Throughout the year, I actually work with the different promoters, either Feld or MX Sports, for items that go on at the races. I look after overseas events that we might participate in, such as the Motocross of Nations and other major races. I have working romantic relationships with our people in Japan along with our vendors here in the Oughout. S.

“As significantly as what I do on competition day, I think that we have great technicians and an awesome crew on this group, so I spend more time making sure that we have anything that we need to get the job done. We have awesome men on the technical side of things, so I do not necessarily get my hands as dirty as I once did. ”


MIKE GUERRA

RACING DEPARTMENT MANAGER

32 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

“I’m the racing department manager, so I’m one step below Keith. We work hand in hand, whether it is setting the overall direction, working with management, rider contracts or anything that involves racing. It’s not just the 450 group; it’s the support teams, rough-road team, Amateur riders, road-race program and contingency, so there are a lot of different facets to it.

“My background is definitely motocross. I was a Saddleback/Carlsbad guy, a CMC guy, from day one. That’s my background, but the heart of it and the spirit of it carries through all of it. It’s continually a challenge. From my position, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way because you want to be involved in it all, also it all has to work in unison eventually. A lot of times if you’re good at what you do, you end up wearing a lot of different hats. And even though you might not be making the end call, your opinion can be very valuable. We have a lot of people like that, so often times it’s the collective decision, not an individual a single.

“On race day, we have key people in place which have a specific job to do. I take a look at myself this way: I’ll be the spokesperson. I’ll be the face. I’ll be the guy who washes the bike. If I can help with something, I’ll get it done. That’s how I see my job, and I’m totally happy with that, and I wouldn’t have it any other method. ”


GREG OLIVER

DEVELOPMENT SUPERVISOR

37 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

toolboxoliver

“Mostly, I work on motors, but I do work on the whole bike. On Monday after a race, we will go over any fire drills that individuals might have had and that would embark on into any failures that we may have had. Those are the most important issues that need to be taken care of immediately. From there, we go on to the bikes. The guys have to rebuild their motorcycles. It all depends upon what schedule, but I might have to rebuild one or two of the engines out of the bikes. On some things we might start conversing with Japan or whomever to find out what we need to do and what needs to begin.

“On race day, Dan Rambert and I are type of an insurance policy. We are the old guys loitering and looking at stuff and viewing what’s going on. Our guys perform a great job, and we’re just about to be, like I said, kind of like insurance. If something goes crooked or there needs to be an engine change, we can be there plus help. In our team, we’re fairly open to everybody having an opinion. It’s not like a real crew-chief-to-mechanic feel in which the crew chief is going to lay out the particular orders and that’s what’s likely to happen. We’re a lot more open than that. It’s a collaboration. We’ve all worked with champions and have been down a lot of roads.

“In working with the riders, it’s all rider-dependent. For some riders, it is good for them to know what’s going on. It helps them psychologically if they are smart about the mechanics of everything. With some riders, they may not be as educated in the mechanical stuff, but they can at all times tell you what makes them feel better or even worse. And when you go testing, that’s all you really want to know— does this particular help you or hurt you? ”


DAN RAMBERT

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS DEVELOPMENT

10 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

toolboxrambert

“I work with all the data and electronics. And even though everything within the group is getting more and more specialized and we each have our main focus, everybody here has done everything, so anybody can jump in on anything.

“I have a logger to the bike, so I can log all the data when the guys come in. I can plug into the data port and download the data while the guys are downloading to their mechanics. That’s the particular hardest part of it; I’m in the center of downloading the bikes while the bikers and mechanics are talking. After i do get the download from the bicycles, I’ll see what’s going on and see what the responses were from the some other guys. If we have any issues to look at, we’ll address those. Otherwise, I go in and look at all the data and make sure all the sensors work and everything is good.

“From the data, we’re monitoring almost everything the bike is doing. It has GPS NAVIGATION, so I can see where they are riding on the track. The lap periods are in the data, as are all the functions of the bike. We’ll look at accelerator position, gearing, what power range they’re in, ignition, fuel—we’ll take a look at everything. I’ll show the downloaded data to the guys, and if they have a spot on the track where they are struggling or think that something is not right, I can go in and determine that area of the track and see the actual bike is doing there. It could be gearing, or the power might not be in the right rpm range, or even way above the rpm range and revved out. We can look at all that and find out if we want to change the gearing, make a fuel change or alter the ignition —if we need to calm the bicycle or make more of a snap. We are able to make all those changes. ”


SHANE DREW

CHASSIS GROWTH

2 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

toolboxdrew

“We’re a team still growing and we all do everything, but I have a title here; it’s overseeing framework development. It’s a position that I think has been overlooked by a lot of teams. I work super closely with the suspension guy, Kaz Chibba, and also with Dan Rambert doing all of the electronic stuff. It all plays jointly.

“With my part here, we plot out all of the geometry stuff and know what we are doing when we change linkages and what those changes will do to the bike. I also operate our suspension dynamometer down at Yamaha. With the suspension dyno, basically what we do will be bolt the components in and set a program to check the damping at all different shaft speeds of the fork or shock. Kaz and I both work on that to get settings. We also do a lot of testing during the week with Chad and Cooper. ”


MIKE GOSSELAAR

CHAD REED’ S TECHNICIAN

2 YEARS WITH GROUP YAMAHA

toolboxGOOSE

“This is basically my 23rd season of being a competition mechanic. I think I’m pretty darn fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I realize a lot of the mechanics get credit for everything in this sport, but we’re just a small part of it. We are just a little cog in the wheel, since there are so many people involved now. It takes a lot of people to make these things go around the monitor now. With our team, everybody is definitely making sure their part of the job is done and making sure everything is ready to move. There is a lot of stress. You have the particular guy’s life in your hands. You are always worrying and wondering— at least I do—about making sure everything is simply right.

“Chad understands how to explain things to each man on the team, and he has a great working relationship with each guy, so his input and opinions doesn’t just come through myself. He speaks directly to the team guys, and we’re all component of it. When Chad comes in after each session, we start getting him, and he’s always got ideas on how to make the bike a little bit better. Hopefully, we don’t make too many changes, but we usually do.

“I think both eras I’ve worked in as a mechanic are special. These days, you have so many people helping you that you are just a small part. In the old days, the mechanic was everything. You were the driving force, the mechanic, the shopper plus everything in between. There were just a few people from the factory showing up at the contests every weekend. They’d just appear and everything was ready to go. It’s just different now. It’s totally evolved. It’s way more professional right now. There is a lot of stress on everybody now because everybody gets compensated well. We are part of a big thing. We’re working for a manufacturer plus representing a lot of sponsors. It’s really a business now. ”


KAZ CHIBBA

SUSPENSION TECHNICIAN

2 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

toolboxchaz

“Before We joined Yamaha, I was the Kayaba suspension technician. I’ve been the suspension technician for 18 years now, and during that time We worked with Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed, Tim Ferry, David Vuillemin plus Jeremy McGrath.

“During the week leading up to each race, I’ll do an overhaul on everything, go to test sessions and focus on the suspension dyno. At the competition, first of all, I’ll have to ask the rider for comments and what he thinks about jumping, landing and cornering. From there we will make any modifications he wants, or, if necessary, I am going to have to change the suspension internally or even change the spring or change the oil. There are unlimited variables. Experience talks in this sort of job. I have to constantly stick with the riders and have conversation and listen to their feedback. This is very important. ”


ERIC GASS

COOPER WEBB’ S TECHNICIAN

3 YEARS WITH TEAM YAMAHA

toolboxgass

“While I was working with Star Yamaha with Cooper Web, I had to go over to Yamaha to get some parts, and I remember returning to the Star shop and saying to some of the other mechanics, ‘Man, these people got it going on over there. They have road racing and motocross, plus everything is side by side and so organized and so clean. You know what? I want to work with factory Yamaha. ’

“Coming into this season on the 450, we didn’t know where we all belonged. Cooper wasn’t really that will great at setting up a 250, therefore he’s not really that good at making a 450 yet, either. We just got Cooper comfortable and tied to that and just let him do motos. Up until now, as far as the bike will go, it is what it is. We have a lot of great guys behind us, especially with Kaz on the suspension and Dan with all the data. We’re all looking to get Coop comfortable and ready to go. There are a lot of variables involved, but not that many a lot more than on a 250. It’s just learning to set up a 450 like a two hundred and fifty, because it’s not a 250.

“The relationship between the rider and a mechanic does include a bit of psychology—being a babysitter, chaperone, big brother, good guy or bad guy depending on the day. One reason House and I work so well jointly is if I need to tell him he’s being an idiot, I’ll tell him he’s being an idiot. In the big-bike class, Cooper needs a talking to at least three or four times a day, whether it’s, ‘Hey, you are doing good’ or ‘Hey, you need to repair this. ’ I would consider my role in his mental state to be fairly big, since we’re the last 2 talking to each.

 

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