When a rider is alone on the starting grid at a Grand Prix, the pit wall is his last point of connection to his team. Despite having a dashboard where certain information and strategy messages are received, without radio communication, the pit wall is the closest contact a rider has to getting some encouragement, support, and confidence from his team. And once he passes the finish line, those on the pit lane are the first to celebrate his success. But who are the people allowed to be on the pit lane during a race?
In the past, when it wasn’t possible to follow a race live on television, team members crowded up against the pit wall to follow their riders’ progress. They balanced on this barrier to give signals and inspire confidence to the riders, anxiously awaiting the long minute it took for the rider to make another lap, a seemingly eternal restlessness that repeated over and over. And when the rider arrived later than usual, or not at all, uncertainty started to take over. Nevertheless, being on the pit wall allowed for closer contact with the rider, even if just a hand gesture or look.
Con la tecnificación de las competiciones, el acceso a la televisión y toda la tecnología audiovisual y el cronometraje, esa angustiosa espera de una vuelta en vacío sin saber nada del piloto desapareció. Ahora se sabe en todo momento dónde está, y si además se tiene la suerte de que es uno de los líderes de la categoría, normalmente se le está viendo de forma continuada por la televisión.
With growing technology in races, access to television, and all the audiovisuals and timekeeping, that anguishing wait in between laps without knowing anything about the rider have disappeared. Now we know where he is at all times, and if we are lucky enough that he’s one of the leaders of the category, we can usually see him constantly on television. Since it is no longer necessary to crowd up on the pit wall to follow a rider’s progress, the number of team members present at this location has considerably reduced, as we can comfortably follow the rider on monitors installed in the team’s box.
Canopy, tettoia or tenderete
When a team arrives to the circuit, the first thing they do is set up their box and position on the pit wall. This stand is called many different things. English-speakers use “canopy”; Italians call it a “tettoia”; and Spanish-speakers tend to adapt the Italian term “tetoya”, although the more traditional term is “tenderete”. We’re going to simply call it the “pit wall”.
Since the team has more than enough information in the box about what’s happening on the track, it makes sense to minimize their presence on the pit wall. In general, you’ll only find team management. There’s no rule on the maximum number of people at this location, but the Repsol Honda team keeps a max of five people there: Tetsushiro Kuwata, HRC director; Takeo Yokoyama, technical director at HRC; Alberto Puig, team manager; and two mechanics, Javi Ortiz and Juan Llansá, one for each rider, who are responsible for displaying the pit boards to Marc Márquez and Pol Espargaró.
There’s also radio communication between the pit wall canopy and the box. The head technician is in direct contact with the pit board mechanic to indicate any information he wants to communicate to the rider. Obviously, the management team also intervenes and contributes as it deems appropriate, by establishing a very fluid and active communication process because everything happens so fast and decisions have to be made quickly and accurately.
The team needs to provide sufficiently detailed and useful information to its rider — both from the pit wall with the pit board as well as through the bike’s dashboard — so that he is aware of any training or race situation quickly, and thus, able to react.
In any case, the organization of the pit wall is not a strict system. It is not uncommon, if the circumstances require it, that the team’s head technician show up at the pit wall to give specific indications, to exchange ideas more fluidly and quickly than in a radio conversation, or simply to give encouragement to the rider, make a signal, or give him support. Because what really matters more than a handful of data is the closeness, the human contact.
And yes, when the race is over and must be celebrated, the whole team jumps over the pit wall to accompany their driver as he crosses the finish line. Of course, when we’re overflowing with joy, there are no barriers.