Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Tyre Tech & Truck Driver Ashley Banks talks logistics and his role in the squad
Tyre Technician and truck driver Ashley Banks has worked in the FIM Superbike World Championship since 2001, and with Crescent Racing since 2013. Switching between his two roles within the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, he can be found meticulously taking care of both his prized Rossetts-supplied Mercedes-Benz Actros, and the bank of Pirelli tyres utilised throughout the weekend. As the team heads towards the final European round before the summer break, and with four already under his belt for 2016, we spoke to Ashley to find out what goes into preparing for life on the road during the busy WorldSBK season.
Ashley, April was a busy month for the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team with Aragon, Assen and Imola race events, can you give an insight into what is needed to prepare the WorldSBK race truck for an EU event and getting between locations in such a tightly packed schedule.
“It’s always very busy preparing for the first European rounds, with the new livery to be finished on the truck and garage equipment. New equipment means a new loading plan for the truck, put it in, take it back out, have another rethink. It’s a bit like a puzzle! All of the normal maintenance and MOT work also needs to be completed and there can be a lot of late nights to be ready to leave on a set day. No excuses!
“With our new collaboration with Yamaha, this required a collection of engines and parts from their headquarters in Neuss, Germany while on route to Aragon for the third round, and another week-long visit before Assen. We decided to return home with the truck before the Imola round to get the bikes back into our new workshop for a thorough strip down and a parts stock up, which meant a three-day turnaround to work and reload. The bikes and equipment then needed to go back in the flight crates at the end of the Imola event for the following round in Sepang so with the truck a little more empty than normal I paid another visit to YME Germany on route home, finally returning back to the workshop in Dorset on the Wednesday evening!”
The role of the tyre technician is an important one, what is a typical weekend for you?
“Once the truck is parked, washed and prepared, unloaded and the garage set up completed, we – there are two tyre men, one for each rider – then turn our attention to wheels and tyres. This starts with a full and proper clean and check of all the wheels – we have approximately ten sets per rider. The Crew Chief, having received the allocation sheet from Pirelli, will then instruct us as to his requirements for the initial fit up and we then take it from there, visiting the Pirelli service trucks for fitting. Once back in the garage we check everything before ‘bagging up’ and connecting the tyre warmers.
“Before each session we turn on the warmers approximately one and a half hours in advance to get the correct heat through the tyre and into the wheel itself. Final checks to stabilise the pressure and make sure the tyre is stickered, as per rules, are completed just before it goes on bike. The tyre pressures are checked or adjusted throughout the sessions every time the bike comes into the garage and we keep extensive records of every exit, including tyre pressure out and in, track temperature, ambient temperature and pressure increases. We are up and down to Pirelli after every session – which can sometimes be quite hectic with the new timetable or if there are changing conditions. At the end of the race meeting all tyres are returned to Pirelli and stripped off the rims then it’s back on truck duty for pack up and garage breakdown!”
Assen and Imola in particular witnessed difficult weather conditions, how does that influence your duties?
“We can only have 13 wheels mounted at any one time, if it’s dry this is totally fine but with changeable weather you also need intermediate and rain tyres fitted. Without making this too complicated, the Pirelli allocation of tyres can sometimes be limited in numbers available. Dorna issue a sticker system for the weekend, both for front and rear, so sometimes you need to keep a lightly used tyre as a back-up. This reduces the amount you can then fit new. Also in changeable conditions you may need different choices of front and rear tyres because of track temperature. In key qualifying sessions this means a full rack of 13 wheels, with different temperatures and pressures, according to use. In other words, it’s busy!”
You have a lot of experience in the World Championship, how exciting is it to be part of a project like the development of the YZF-R1 and how has the start of the season gone, from your point of view?
“I’m very proud to be a part of the project and have every confidence that the development will see us on the podium soon. Everybody is working very hard to achieve this goal and I’m enjoying the journey but even with the potential we have already shown, the end of the weekends can often feel a little bit disappointing as you always want to achieve the best even from the start and, especially looking from the outside, in the end it’s about the results. But it is still early days so we know there is much more to come and have the confidence that the results will arrive!”
Which race are you most looking forward to, and what is your favourite location to travel to and why?
“I have always loved Laguna Seca. I love the setting and the racing, and the burgers! A couple of us are also taking a trip to Yosemite this year before the race, so we are looking forward to a little down time before the racing gets going.”
Is there a particular journey on the European calendar that you most look forward to you and do you have any interesting stories?
“I enjoy all of the Italian rounds, because of the scenery through the alpine regions. I never fail to enjoy my driving there.”
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