At the MotoGPs Mathilde Poncharal and Hatsumi Tsukamoto are tasked with arranging the schedules of the riders of their respective teams, Monster Yamaha Tech3 and Suzuki Racing.
The schedule of riders at a MotoGP meeting is timed down to a tee. They take part in numerous activities with the media, the team’s guests and the fans fitted in around their practice sessions, race etc and the vital work with the engineers. To organise all this as efficiently as possible the teams employ key people whose job is to plan all these activities in the most precise fashion beforehand. At the events they guide and follow their riders whose weekend is punctuated with several meetings.
The people in question are Mathilde Poncharal, Tech3 communications manager and press officer, and Hatsumi Tsukamoto, marketing and operations manager for Suzuki Racing.
Mathilde tells us about what she has to do over the 19 rounds on the calendar. “I manage the riders’ planning; I follow them all weekend and I also look after the team’s guests.” This year Tech 3 is running a rookie, Hafizh Syahrin from Malaysia, and Johann Zarco who has scored numerous podium finishes and pole positions. His growing reputation has had an impact on the work of the Tech3 communications team. “We get an awful lot of requests from the media and our partners for autograph sessions. In general, people understand that the time we have available is limited and that we have to respect the schedule of the various sessions and the rest time for the riders. Thursday is the media day and when our planning is full we try to arrange things. If the rider qualifies on the front row and finishes on the podium, we have to take into account his presence at the press conference. Although it’s extra work we’re so delighted to be fighting at the front!”
She gave us the main guide lines of the standard schedule for a grand prix:
- Thursday afternoon: interviews, media debriefs for each rider (10 minutes), and sometimes a pre-grand prix press conference.
- Friday: free practice (FP1 & FP2), media debriefs for each rider, sometimes an autograph session (15-20 minutes), safety commission.
- Saturday: FP3, FP4, qualifying Q1 and Q2, media debrief for each rider if not on the front row, press conference if this is the case, autograph session.
- Sunday: warm-up session, the race, media debrief for each rider if not on the podium, press conference if this is the case.
At Suzuki Racing Hatsumi Tsukamoto’s job is similar to that of her Tech3 counterpart. “The riders are very busy during a grand prix so we have to be on time to the minute, to the second even. We organise activities outside the paddock like autograph sessions for the clients of a Suzuki dealership, a kart or mini-moto event. Our clients love riding on a road-going bike with a grand prix rider on board. Obviously at low speed!”
A Japanese must really love travelling to enjoy this kind of job. “Every time I go to a European Grand Prix, for example, the journey takes around twenty hours. But I’ve been doing it for more than fifteen years so I’m used to it. You have to be in good health as falling ill abroad isn’t really to be recommended. The majority of the team members are men; there are only two women out of forty-five people, including hospitality service. I have to eat quickly, walk quickly. In short, I live like the men!”
Monster Yamaha Tech3 and Suzuki Racing are technically supported by Motul in MotoGP.
Pictures : @Lukasz Swiderek