What’s it like to work with Tony? His crew chief tells all, even revealing the rider's first nickname in the Marc VDS garage...
This year saw Tony Arbolino complete his second season in Moto2, his first in Elf Marc VDS Racing team colours. The talented Italian was guided by crew chief Lucio Nicastro, who talks to us exclusively about some of the aspects of the 2022 season, from the technical to the more personal, offering a great behind the scenes glimpse into the world of motorcycling.
What’s it like working with Tony?
“Challenging. He’d had a difficult 2021 and so it took a little time to interpret his needs and understand his way of explaining things. I had a few doubts over the winter, also because he was coming from a strong team but had really struggled in 2021. I couldn’t see the potential that he later demonstrated. We had to adapt to him and he had to understand how we worked. But we went on to do very well.”
What kind of person is he, on a human level?
"Fantastic. Very enthusiastic and always cheerful. He has a very positive attitude with everyone and brings real harmony to the garage. When things are not going well, his morale remains high but, in the moment, if you don’t know him, the situation seems disastrous. The group has remained close, and he listens well, putting his trust in you".
What did you do to put him at ease?
"At first, I tried to help him keep his feet on the ground. We joke a lot amongst ourselves, even in the serious moments, and so I tried to make him understand that we would need to keep working and that results wouldn’t come on their own. His strength is that he listens and remains calm. Already in November I told him it would take time. After a tricky first half of the championship, it was great to see him cheer up, it’s not always easy. We all sat down together at Misano and did a reset, getting back into the good habits we’d lost during the season".
"He needs a very strong human connection"
Do you have any rituals?
"In terms of superstitions, no. But we play on the fact that the hire car is often parked in spot number 14 or we go to a restaurant and they give us table 14. We have a harmonious relationship. Mid-afternoon we have tea and discuss where we’re at. Human relationships are important to him, he needs a strong human connection. We spend a lot of time together during race weekends and then he writes to me in the evening, sends me onboard videos. He thinks a lot and works hard, even when he’s alone at home. He never stops and that’s a good thing. He's a scamp in the garage, a clown, but he’s very serious in his work. We should never confuse being able to have a laugh with professionalism. From outside, he might seem like an odd character, but he’s more on it than many others who might seem more serious but don’t have the same passion and desire to do well.”
Do you have any good anecdotes?
"At the start of the season, after the first winter tests in November, he’s made a decent exit and came into the garage saying: “I’m a horse”, in the sense he was quick. I replied saying that he was more like a pony and that I would call him Pony Arbolino until he scored his first podium. This made him angry, and so we stuck with Pony! But then fortunately he won at Austin and this nickname quickly vanished. Already in Qatar he was on the front row, something no-one expected. At Losail, his trainer Ivan (Lopez) had said on Thursday: “If you start front row, I’ll run a marathon on the hotel treadmill”. We all laughed, because we thought it was an impossible bet for race one. But he did it and, on Sunday morning, when I went down to breakfast he was there running on the treadmill. And that morning he did in fact run 42 km..."