Valentine ready to roll
JACK VALENTINE, the newly appointed Team Manager to the Rizla Suzuki British Superbike team, is raring to go and is determined to get the squad back to winning ways.
Valentine started his professional race career in 1982 when he set out with Steve Mellor as V&M Racing; at that time he was still competiting and claimed 10 national and three European motorcycle drag racing titles over a seven year period. He gave up his own racing in 1990 to concentrate on the management and technical side of V&M. His team went on to have considerable success in the British Championship and the International road racing scene.
As well as running his own team, V&M was responsible for tuning engines for top race teams and helped with rider development. Some of the big names which it assisted were Carl Fogarty, James Whitham and Rob McElnea.
2003 saw Jack set-up his own company - Valmoto - which took on the Triumph project with Craig Jones in British Supersport. He then picked up the Foggy Petronas Team Manager job in World Superbikes, which came to an end in 2006. At that point Valentine had offers of work but none of them interested him, so he decided to sit on the side lines for a while. He wasn't out of action for long as the Kawasaki BSB team decided it needed his services and enlisted him in the middle of the 2007 season, "I was interested in that role because it was the official team and although it was just weekend consultancy, it kept me sharp," said Jack.
The approach from Rizla Suzuki came just at the right time as Valentine had nothing firm lined up for 2008, as he explained: "Paul Denning, Crescent's Director, approached me about the job and I've always rated the Rizla Suzuki team as a professional outfit. He offered me a package that was right for me and I liked the vision that Paul has for the team, so we did a deal. It was too good an opportunity to turn down."
The 54-year-old Lancastrian has made the move down south to Wimborne, which will enable him to be close to the team HQ at Verwood in Dorset. He hasn't taken up the new position with the Rizla Suzuki team just to have a job. He said: "I've taken up this role within Rizla Suzuki because I'm interested in the project. You don't move the length of the country unless it is something you are passionate about. I want to get the team back to where it was."
He has been handed the reigns by Simon Buckmaster and is currently settling into his new role, he admits that Buckmaster has left the team in a strong position. "Simon has carried out a professional hand-over and left the team in good shape giving me an excellent base to build on," he said.
The first job on his to-do list was to get the team together and he has already done that: "We have got all our guys on board; they did a good job this year so we are keeping them together," he explained. "I need to make sure the team is working as a unit. We are there to do a job as a team and it doesn't matter which rider is winning as long as it is a Rizla Suzuki rider. There may be competitiveness between the two sides of the garage but the team will share data and set-up which will make it operate as a single unit. So my first real challenge will be to establish team work."
Another challenge that will face the race guru is working with the newly crowned double Japanese Superbike Champion, Atsushi Watanabe. The 31-year-old from Hamamatsu picked up the Japanese title for the first time in 2002 and now has his sights set on conquering BSB. Watanabe has to get to grips with the UK race tracks and weather, all of which Valentine will be there to assist with. He will also have the expertise of three times British Superbike Champion, John Reynolds who will remain with Suzuki for 2008, giving him his knowledge of the circuits.
Watanabe is currently learning English but Valentine doesn't feel that the communication barrier will hold him back. He said "It could be tricky to start with but the team worked with Yukio Kagayama a few years ago and there were no issues. He needs to settle into UK life first, the technical side of things like suspension and the bike will communicate ok. The technical side of racing has a universal language so it won't be a problem.
"He needs to get used to English tracks as much as possible, even if it is just on a road going GSX-R 1000 Suzuki, he needs to get plenty of laps in especially on the smaller tracks as they are very different to what he is used to. He is a two times Japanese Superbike Champion, he is a good rider and he has factory connections which will benefit the team."
As ever work continues throughout the off season and Jack has been keeping busy. He said: "I've been doing a lot of work behind the scenes. I've moved house and settled into the area and now I'm raring to go. I'll be planning the test schedule for the Rizla Suzuki team as soon as the calendar is in place. I want to start hitting some targets and getting results in the pre season testing.
"I want to be winning and challenging for the championship. We need regular podiums and top five finishes as that is what will win the Championship for Rizla Suzuki. I want consistency, not an odd win here or there - plus I don't want crashes. I want a first class championship contending team and the base is there to do that."
Away from work, Jack likes to relax with his wife Doris and their two German wire haired pointers. He said: "I don't have a lot of time for hobbies, but when I get a moment I like to go walking with my wife and our dogs. I love anything that gets me out of doors and onto the fells or the moors."
Jack is a music fan and will listen pretty much to anything but he admits he has a liking for rock music. He likes to make time for good food: "Italian is my favourite I love a good Italian. I'm not adverse to a pint of Guinness or the odd bottle of Bud!"
Being a keen bike fan he owns a Triumph Rocket 3 and loves to hit the open road. "I've owned Harleys in the past and I enjoy the life style," he enthused. "I've done a lot of touring with my wife as she rides too."
When time allows he manages to squeeze in the occasional game of golf or a skiing holiday. Providing he is out doors he is happy.
Watanabe's team-mate will be announced on Wednesday 7th November on www.rizla-suzuki.co.uk and in UK weekly publication Motor Cycle News…