Between rounds of a race series each team faces a massive logistics project - the packing, loading, transport and setup for the next event. In a typical WorldSBK (FIM Superbike World Championship Series) season this is repeated 14 times between late February and the end of October. For the 2016 season, more than a 100 riders across four competition classes, their teams, bikes, equipment, race officials and broadcast gear make each trip. This includes travel to nine European rounds in a vast caravan of semi-trucks, trailers and motorhomes. For races outside Europe, fewer competition classes - but still numbering more than 50 riders, teams and gear - make the round-trip to five continents transported in a fleet of cargo jets and commercial flights.
Day Zero. On the day of arrival at each round, it's a long day for the team unpacking and assembling bikes which are shipped disassembled in their component systems. Crew chiefs and lead technicians inspect at every step.
Each bike is largely built from the chassis up with motors and components unpacked from custom shipping containers designed to protect parts and tools. Aprilia factory technicians install the swingarm on Max Biaggi's 2012 championship-winning RSV4 Factory bike.
The first refresh of parts is installed for the next morning's practice session. Chassis consumables (brake discs, brake pads, fluids, tires...) and tunable parts (shocks, springs, forks and internals, suspension bearings) are first up.
Between rounds some teams may be able to return to home base to sort issues that cropped up in the previous race weekend. Anything needing further attention is tackled as soon as the team arrives in the new venue. (BMW technicians inspect the internals of a fuel system using a simple point-and-shoot camera to photograph inside the tank.)
Two truths persist in troubleshooting complex systems: a) it's usually the simple things; b) two heads are better than one.
The Superbike World Championship, like most international series, sets limits on the number of engines that can be used for the duration of the season. Since the 2014 season teams are limited to a total of eight engines, inspected and sealed by race officials, to last the entire race season without rebuilding.
Engines must last for multiple race weekends (including practices and races). Engine designers, builders and technicians now must balance engine durability with power output, helping teams with more limited budgets to close some of the gap to teams that previously could afford to stress and replace spent engines liberally.
Tools, old and new, are used to assemble the bike with a base-line set-up. If the team has prior history with a track and rider, they may have the advantage of starting with the settings from the previous year or sanctioned practice session. This includes setting the digital systems that acquire data from the bike's many sensors and using that data to adjust both electronic controls and mechanical systems.
While electronic systems are proliferating and evolving rapidly, mechanical systems are still the core platform of the racing machine. Suspension settings are among the most critical and difficult to tune. Setting the chain length and tension range based on a wheelbase and suspension setting for a particular track uses one of the oldest specialized tools in the racing mechanic’s toolbox, essentially unchanged for more than a century: the chain breaker and rivet tool.
Even when they've moved into the top classes of international competition, most crew members remember that (probably not too long ago) they were excited to work in a support-class racing team...
... where the accommodations had less to offer but the motivation for winning was just as strong.
End of Day Zero. Having traveled 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from their base in Italy to Salt Lake City, Utah, Kawasaki Team Pedercini and rider David Salom have been setting up for the next day’s first practice for almost 12 hours straight. Time to call it a day.