Team Suzuki Press Office - July 7.
Alstare Suzuki WSB's long-serving Press Officer and Photographer Kel Edge talks about the 2011 season and Anglo-Italian banter with new team rider Michel Fabrizio.
For this season, the Belgium based Alstare Suzuki squad have had to trim their operation down to one rider, mainly due to economic restraints. That has also meant a reduction in the total number of staff employed, both at the track and back at base near Liege, but that doesn't mean that its passion and commitment has been anywhere reduced. Whilst the outfit may be smaller, the intensity of their efforts remains at the highest level. The bike used this year may be the same as the one Leon Haslam nearly took to the Championship title last year, but the team has surprised more than a few people with its competitiveness.
"Do you speak English?" Being the press officer for Alstare Suzuki is never dull and each year throws up new challenges. Our rider this year, Michel Fabrizio, raced for us in 2003 when he won the European Superstock Championship in a thrilling season-long fight with Lorenzo Lanzi, so he is not a stranger to the team. Fortunately most of the current mechanics were working then, so making a 'team' was not at all difficult. This year nearly half the mechanics are Italian and the rest (including team boss Francis Batta) all speak Italian, so communication between them was never going to be a problem.
The problem, if there was going to be one, was going to be me - as my Italian is nowhere near fluent. I understand quite a lot and can speak quite a bit, but occasionally I run out of vocabulary. Anyway, all racers speak good English, don't they? Apparently not, with Michel being a prime example! Before the first test, I asked one of our Italian mechanics if Michel could speak English and was informed fairly categorically that he did not. So, jokingly, I asked what his Italian was like and was informed that his Italian wasn't much good either - as he was from Rome! According to the mechanic, there's Italian and then there's what the Romans speak! I had also been given the impression (but not from anybody within our team) that Michel could be a bit 'tricky', but I've previously worked with Max Biaggi, so I approached working with Michel as I did with Max; with a completely open mind.
The first time I met Michel, I spoke to him in Italian. I told him that this would be a tough year and that we all had to give 100% to be competitive. I also said that every time I spoke to him, I would do my best to keep it all in Italian and that it was only right that he should reply in English and that way, we'd both improve. And guess what, he agreed. So that's how the season began, that's how it's carrying on and I have to say that it has not been a problem at all. Both of us occasionally forget a word, but we help each other out and so both of us are getting something out of the experience. And is he tricky? Not at all. Far from it; he is a delight to work with. Maybe that is because Alstare Suzuki is, and has always been, very much a 'family' set-up and Michel has found a 'home' again. A happy rider is a fast rider and Michel has already confounded quite a few critics this season. Supposedly our bike is outdated, but the team are showing that there is still life in the GSX-R yet.
Michel is a very determined character and his race pace shows that he can compete with the best. Unfortunately, his grid positions have done him no favours, so he has always had to battle through the field to get good results. We're all looking forward to the time when he qualifies on the front or second row of the grid and gets to fight with the top three right from the start. That could happen at the next race. Michel tells me (in English of course) that there are more podiums to come this season and one of his favourite tracks (Brno) is coming up next, so let's see what happens then.