As parts of Europe are starting to come out of COVID-19 lock-down and motorcycle racing returns to some sort of normality, we jumped at the chance to catch up with a Kiwi at the centre of the MotoGP world.
Former Dunedin man Paul Trevathan is the crew chief for the KTM factory team and, in an average year, this intrepid Kiwi might spend nearly 10 months travelling around the world, on hand in the pits for the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer at more than 20 MotoGP world championship races.
He heads up a small but highly-skilled technical team that is focused on giving talented Spanish racer Pol Espargaro the best possible chance of scoring world championship points.
The just-turned 51-year-old Trevathan is based in Druten, in The Netherlands, living there with his wife, Nicole, and their two children, Niek and Eva.
It wasn’t what he originally thought he’d be doing with his life.
“I left New Zealand as a 21-year-old in 1991 with my then girlfriend and we had the plan of travelling around the world for a couple of years. I wasn’t planning on doing anything with bikes,” he said.
Trevathan had raced motocross in New Zealand since he was young and he became a motorcycle mechanic, but he never dreamed he’d end up in the hot-bed of motorcycle road-racing.
“The plan was just to move around, pick fruit for work and look at the world. At the end of 1991, I found myself in the Netherlands and at the Motocross des Nations, helping out the New Zealand boys. I ended up meeting the Missotten brothers who owned a motocross shop (like the Pro Circuit of Belgium). They offered me a job for the winter, and that’s how I ended up back in the bike world.
“Phew, a lot has happened when I look back. My first full-time year on the race circuits was in 1994. I worked with (New Zealand’s) Darryll King in the 500cc motocross world championships.
“Halfway through the year, he got injured and was out for the year. I was good friends with a man named Piero Slechten (owner of SPESS exhausts) and he gave me a job helping him develop the exhausts on the dyno. This is how I meet Jan de Groot (the team manger of the factory Kawasaki motocross team) and he offered me a mechanic’s job, working for American racer Tallon Vohland.
“I started with Kawasaki and was a mechanic for two years and then become chief mechanic and worked with Tallon, Stefan Everts, Fred Bolley, Yves Demaria, Sebastian Tortelli, Pit Beirer, Marnicq Bervoets, Michael Maschio and Steve Ramon.
“We actually won Kawasaki’s first world championship in motocross in 1995, with Everts, and then two more with Tortelli and one with Maschio. In all the other years we had guys on the podium.
“My road racing career started in 2004, I stared working as a crew chief for Peter Clifford’s WCM MotoGP team, with riders Chris Burns and James Ellison. It was a massive step coming from motocross to road racing without any experience, especially in that position, but Peter believed I could do it, and he gave me all the tools to learn and that was something I needed to do quickly.
“Finally Peter needed to close the team at the end of 2005 as he couldn’t find enough sponsorship to continue. At that stage, (shock absorber company) Ohlins approached me to come and work as a suspension technician. So, from 2006 until 2014, I worked for them, first with the Aprilia group in the 125 and 250 classes and up to six different riders and teams (too long a rider list to mention) and then when Honda switched to Ohlins in MotoGP, I went there to work with (Spain’s) Dani Pedrosa.
“At the end of 2014, KTM approached me to come and work there. They were just starting to work on their MotoGP project, and they wanted me to join that. But 2015 was too early to get completely involved, so I did one year as track support for their Moto3 project, working with Miquel Olivera and Brad Binder.
“From 2016, I have been working as a Crew Chief in KTM’s MotoGP project, 2016 with Mika Kallio and since 2017 with Pol Espargaro.”
Trevathan and his family fly back to New Zealand whenever time allows it and he says he does miss his homeland.
“New Zealand is a fantastic place. Just that for me, too far away from the rest of the world to do this type of job, the travelling would kill me. Plus, having a Dutch wife and kids, I really feel good here now.
“For sure we don’t come home often enough, it’s just with having more and more races, the season gets longer and longer, and then to put another long trip on the end of it, just becomes too much.
Also the kids are in school and at Christmas time, they only get two weeks off, so you would have to take them out of school, so for sure doing that every year would be too much. We visited New Zealand this last December and January for one month and loved it.
Check back with www.BikesportNZ.com next week, when we will bring you part two of our catch-up with Paul Trevathan.
Photos courtesy KTM Europe, Polarity Photo, Philip Platzer and Robert Gray
Words by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
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