American Mark Elder Leaves Ducati MotoGP Team For Yamaha

Longtime MotoGP mechanic is now wrenching for Valentino Rossi.

American MotoGP mechanic Mark Elder
“It would be nice to have more Americans in the paddock, but it’s not easy to get a job as a mechanic,” Mark Elder said. “There aren’t many jobs, and many people are working their way through from the smaller classes waiting to come into MotoGP.”Photo: Andrew Wheeler/AutoMotoPhoto

When the MotoGP season came to a close on Sunday at Valencia, talk turned to paddock movers and shakers. Most conversations focused on who is riding for whom next season—Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati, Maverick Vinales to Yamaha, Andrea Iannone to Suzuki, etc.—but changes are also taking place on the other side of pit wall.

American Mark Elder is one the people in a new role with a different team. Elder, who hails from Los Angeles, has been a part of Ducati's MotoGP effort since 2003—245 successive races. Before that, he was in World Superbike with Ducati and AMA Superbike with Vance & Hines.

Elder has now joined Yamaha, where he is working on Valentino Rossi's side of the garage. The color of his shirt is not the only thing that has changed. Elder's responsibilities are different, as well. At Ducati, he was most recently a chassis mechanic for Andrea Dovizioso. With Yamaha, he has three specific duties.

“My responsibilities with Ducati were those of regular chassis mechanic,” Elder said. “We changed engines and all the suspension parts, even electronics. Tires, fuel, and fairings will my principal jobs at Yamaha. When I get done with those, having been a mechanic already, I’ll help the other guys if I can.”

Thinking back over his time with Ducati, Elder witnessed many personnel changes inside the garage. “Until about four years ago, the majority of the team had been the same since Superbike,” he said. “It was a real family feeling. It is still a nice place to work, but the relationships are newer.

“The core group has gone away. There was the group that came with Troy Bayliss, worked with Casey Stoner, and then left with Stoner. And then there was my team, which worked with Loris Capirossi, Marco Melandri, and Nicky Hayden. It’s like that with Dovi’s team: We were together for four years.

“There are some guys on the team who I’ve known for 15 years. And there are some engineers who have also been around since the beginning. A large group of those guys went to work at Suzuki. In the end, there are just a handful of us who have been around for as long as I have.”

Mark Elder mechanic for Andrea Dovizioso
“In America, we worked Monday through Friday in the shop and then went to the races,” Elder said. “Over here, you fly in, do the job, and go home. We are already gone a lot, so it would be much more difficult if we had to be at work every day.”Photo: Andrew Wheeler/AutoMotoPhoto

Change wasn’t on Elder’s mind. In fact, he initially turned down Yamaha’s offer. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, for sure,” he said. “At first, I told them that I wasn’t going to go—a definitive ‘no.’ Then I changed my mind, called them up, and asked if I could have another week to decide. At that point, I had already decided.”

Elder will continue to live with his family near the Ducati factory in Bologna. “The Yamaha shop is near Milan,” he said, “so it’s not that far, a couple of hours by car, if I need to go up there. At Ducati, some of the engineers had to be in the factory quite often. Gigi [Dall’Igna] was always in his office.”

Elder worked with Rossi during the Italian’s 2011-2012 stint at Ducati. “I got along great with Valentino, his mechanics, his whole team,” he said. “It was almost natural that, if there were a place over there, I would go. So, for sure, it helped that I had already worked with them for two years.”

Dovizioso’s victory last month in Malaysia was a sweet parting gift for Elder. “It was great,” he said. “It had been a long time for him and also for me. My rider had not won a race since Loris Capirossi in 2007. So, it was very satisfying. Plus, we wanted it a lot for Dovi because he is such a great guy and deserved it.”

Did you miss the MotoGP finale at Valencia? Click below for the recap: