Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith chat about the parts of their race kit that belong just to them.
Many segments of Red Bull KTM’s MotoGPTM project and existence are well ordered and structured but there are also other minor details and elements that are a very personal part of the racing process. The most obvious come with the individual components of the riders’ kit and gear and simply quizzing the likes of Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith to reveal some curious information about what their preferences in what is such a famous, scientific and very exact sport.
“I have a four fingered glove because of the way my hand is,” Smith says holding up his still mangled and red-raw left pinkie finger: a victim of a fast crash at Barcelona for the Grand Prix of Catalunya in June. “I have the thumb, the forefinger, the middle finger and then the fourth and fifth are inside a ‘mitten’ together. I have an issue with movement and protection there.”
Espargaró’s first pick is a choice that is also related to a form of protection. “I think we – as riders – are using similar systems and tools now in the leather suits but I remember in my second year in MotoGPTM I was struggling a lot with arm-pump so I started to use this elastic adhesives on my knees, around the arms and elbow and it gave some relief and helped me a lot on the bike so we used it on my back and my shoulders. Generally with the crashes now it is not just about the material of the suits we have but how the material is put together and constructed. It’s really important to have that at a good level.”
Helmet livery is clearly an area where any rider has the most ‘say’ about his outward look on the racetrack. In Smith’s case the English flag has been a mainstay of his Shoei and remains firmly in place. “The helmet has a St George cross and although we all like to say we are from ‘Great Britain’ there is a little extra pride for me in being from England,” the 26 year old explains. “I decided it would be part of my identity from 2009 and I really haven’t changed the design of the helmet. It was important and in the past I fought, kicked and screamed to keep it the same! And orange has always been my color, even when I was on other teams.”
Pol smiles and points to his elbow. “A few years ago in pre-season I was scraping the leathers a lot with my elbow on the ground and they [Dainese] had to change the entire arm of the suit. I remember being in Malaysia and spending four days trying different components and material to see which could withstand best to make this protector/slider. In the end other riders started to use the same stuff and it’s turned out to be an important development for all of us.”
For keen offroad rider Smith (even if his 2016 right knee injury has severely limited his motocross miles) the chance to get on the dirt permits even more personalization away from the scrutiny of MotoGPTM. “I love offroad; I don’t know whether it is the freedom of jumping or just riding but it’s something different,” he says. “It is having that confidence of the bike moving round underneath you. I just had Troy Lee Designs send me some kit that Shane McElrath used at Anaheim 2 [Supercross], I think, with the ‘38’ on the back and I asked them to change the ‘McElrath’ to ‘Smith’. So that with the Red Bull graphics means I look a bit factory!”
In Grand Prix teams and riders never cease to look for marginal gains and the same attention to detail seems to spread around.