Repsol Honda Electronics Engineer Carlo Luzzi Interview

Ex-Formula 1 tech is the digital guru behind Marc Márquez’s MotoGP titles.

Marc Márquez with team
Ten for 10 at the Sachsenring en route to a sixth MotoGP title: As a young engineer, Carlo Luzzi (lower left) rejected an offer from Toyota to join its Formula 1 team in favor working on a 125cc Grand Prix team. He now manages the electronics for Marc Márquez’s factory Honda RC213V.Honda

When asked about the keys to his success in MotoGP, Marc Márquez nearly always names his team first. Five of the nine members of that faithful group have been with Márquez since his Moto2 days. Two, both Italians, joined Márquez when he moved to the premier class in 2013. The others, a Japanese mechanic and an Öhlins technician, came on board a few seasons ago. Collectively, they form an "independent republic" in the Repsol Honda garage.

Carlo Luzzi has been Márquez’s electronics engineer for the past seven seasons. Luzzi’s résumé is impressive, but when speaking with him you quickly learn he is driven by an extraordinary passion for motorcycles. As an engineer, Luzzi got his professional start in auto racing as a suspension technician. From there, he moved to Formula 1. He has also done time in the equally challenging Dakar Rally.

In 2000, Toyota asked Luzzi to join its F1 project as a suspension specialist, an offer with tremendous professional prospects. Luzzi was only 30 years old at the time, but rather than accept Toyota’s offer, he instead joined a 125cc Grand Prix team in the MotoGP world championship.

“I was always passionate about motorcycles,” Luzzi explained. “I was in cars because I simply hadn’t found anything related to motorcycles. I went to England because it was easier to find a motorsport job. I’ll tell you more: I never liked math at all, but I went into engineering because I wanted to work with motorcycles.”

Luzzi quickly made a name for himself. Davide Brivio, who now manages Suzuki’s MotoGP program but was then linked to Yamaha, introduced Luzzi to Massimo Meregalli, the current director of the Yamaha MotoGP team. At the time, Meregalli was in charge of Yamaha’s World Supersport effort. After two years in the middleweight class and two more in Superbike, Luzzi was asked by Brivio to team with Colin Edwards in MotoGP. When he received that offer, Luzzi said, “I cried with happiness.”

You have worked with an amazing list of world champions: Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso, Casey Stoner, and, since 2013, Marc Márquez. Some of those riders are pretty complicated characters.

Yes, but I have been very lucky because they are the riders who have been champions. You learn a lot of things. You can work for many years with “normal” racers, but at the moment when a very strong one comes who explains what he needs, it’s another world. Everyone is different, but in a number of ways all champions are the same.

In what sense?

Basically two things: They are really clear, and their goal is the same. They are absolutely obsessed with winning.

Is it more obsession than determination?

Obsession leads to determination; determination is the step after obsession.

Are they all perfectionists?

In different ways. Casey was not a perfectionist. Of the riders I’ve worked with, he was least interested in the motorcycle. He forgot about it. We, the engineers, our life is programmed around the motorcycle. You are always looking for ways to improve your performance to go faster. Casey’s comments when he got off the bike—I won’t tell you because they were—but when he left, he forgot everything. The next day, when he came back, he got on the motorcycle and gas!

Carlo Luzzi (left) with Marquez
Repsol Honda brain trust: “You can work for many years with ‘normal’ racers,” Luzzi (left) says, “but the moment a special rider arrives, who can explain what he needs, it’s another world.” With his victory in Thailand, Márquez sealed his eighth world title.Honda

What do you like most about Marc Márquez the sportsman?

The most impressive thing about Marc is that he has many virtues. I have a lot of experience. I have worked with many riders. There are riders who have areas that are very strong and others that are less strong. But if you ask me to name an area where Marc is not 100 percent, I can’t. It’s something amazing. And he never tires of improving; he is a born perfectionist.

Of all those virtues you say Márquez has, which ones stand out from the rest?

Marc has two personalities: I always say he’s Jekyll and Hyde. In the box, he is 100 percent technical. He explains everything super well, calmly and quietly. When he gets on the motorcycle, he transforms completely, he becomes passionate. He has character, spirit, and balls. And then, when he is in front of the media, he is always positive. The same thing happens at the technical meetings: He always starts with the positive, even if there are things he doesn’t like.

In the box, you are with Spanish, Italian, and Japanese crew members. What language do you speak during the weekend?

It depends. We have three languages because Marc speaks Italian well. But if we are alone, he and I try to speak in Spanish. If there are Japanese near us and they are technical comments, we speak in English.

Do you have any kind of relationship beyond professional?

There is also a personal relationship. I am almost 50 years old, and Marc is 26. You can’t talk about friendship because our situations are different, but there is a lot of personal relationship. Of course, when we are in the box it is 100 percent work. In the end, you can have good vibes, get along, have a friendship, but this does not have to make you weaker because when you go out on the track nobody gives you tenths for the fact that you get along with the rider.

Last question: How many times have your friends in Italy asked you, “What do you do with Márquez?”

What do you mean, after what happened in 2015?

No, I mean in general. You are Italian and yet every day you do everything possible to beat the Italian riders.

Oh, yes, of course they tell me, but always in a friendly tone. But I always answer the same thing: When I was about to leave university I sent out my CV, including one to Ducati; I’m still waiting to be answered. I had to emigrate to another country to start working.

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