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In this episode, Chuck Giacchetto, Team Manager for MotoAmerica road race team Westby Racing, updates us on the team's preseason preparation with rider Matthew Scholtz, goals for the year and future, then discusses his role as Team Manager.
MotoAmerica is a signature sponsor and partner of Pit Pass Moto. Hear from champions of Superbikes on the podcast, and keep track of the race schedule right here.
Welcome to Pit Pass Moto, the show that brings you deep dive interviews with the motorcycle industry insiders and racers that make the sport move.
I'm your host, Dale Spangler, and this episode's guest is Chuck Giacchetto, team manager for the MotoAmerica Superbike team, Westby Racing.
This episode is brought to you by MotoAmerica, home of AMA Superbike Racing, and North America's premier motorcycle road racing series. Watch every round of the 2023 series with MotoAmerica Live+ video-on-demand streaming service, or visit the MotoAmerica YouTube Channel for race highlights and original video content.
For the complete 2023 MotoAmerica schedule, head to motoamerica.com or follow MotoAmerica on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for real-time series updates.
Let's get started.
We'd like to welcome Chuck Giacchetto to Pit Pass Moto. Chuck, how has your year been so far, and what's been happening?
Man, it is a lovely day today in Woodstock, Georgia, it's about 72. All the doors are open and everyone that's part of Westby Racing and GiaccMoto Racing is here accounted and feeling good and getting it on. So, right this minute, I can't ask for more. It's been a really big turnaround since we had that little attention getter at the first test.
Yeah. So, well, first off, I'm a little jealous of that weather, that's for sure. I'm sitting here in Boise, Idaho, and it's cold. It's sunny, but it's cold.
Oh, man. Yeah, no, I shouldn't really complain, but after you've lived here for a long enough amount of time, you become really a fair-weather person. I'm not going to lie, I don't mind visiting someplace that it's cold or anything like that, but I definitely, do like nice temperature, something comfortable as we get older.
Yep. So, let's talk a little bit about something you kind of alluded to already, like I would imagine you’re getting your full swing preseason preparation. I think I saw where you tested a few weeks back at Buttonwillow alongside the Attack Yamaha team with Mathew Scholtz. How did things go? How does he feel on the bike? Things looking good coming into the season?
Well, I think they're looking really good. Matt's been off the bike or off any motorcycle since Barbara last year, so mid to late September and he went home. He hadn't been home in quite a long time, so he went home, and he really just vegged out. And I think it was important for him to do that and get his mind off of racing and work and things of that nature and kind of be a bit of a lazy bum.
And so, when he came back, he's fit, he's always fit, but he needed to get bike fit and the only way you can do that is to hammer out a test or hammer out a couple of good rides. So, they did make some progress out there at that first test. The first test for them was all about reacclimating him to the motorcycle and to the time changes and things of that nature.
Then we have a couple of new players on the team this year too, so it was really just to get everybody acclimated to working with each other. And thankfully, it all worked out really well.
So, even though it doesn't look like on paper that a lot was done at that first test, a lot was done. So, I'm pretty satisfied and pumped with what the guy's done.
Yeah, sometimes it's like those little breaks in there, like it might end up being better in the long run. Sometimes he just may maybe needs a reset whatever. I think I read where he said he didn't do much moto training this year, this winter as well.
And so, coming into the season though, I mean, 2022 was a pretty darn good season for him. 11 podiums, including a race win. And what are your expectations this season for Mathew Scholtz? I mean, do you feel like he's a title contender?
I know he is a title contender, and to say anything less would be why are we all here at this point? So, we know we can win, we need to execute it. Seems like we have this conversation, and it appears to be almost every month just because the time goes by so fast. So, to think it's been a year since we've had these kind of questions thrown at us is a little odd.
But the song remains the same. We have always really been about a half a step behind or half a pace behind in a few areas. And this year in the off season we got some firmware and software updates from YME, from Yamaha Motor Europe, from the racing guys, the same guys that take care of top rack and everything. So, between them and YMUS and then of course, Attack Performance.
And actually, we're getting some help from the BSB team over there, from those guys this year, too. McAMS with Yamaha, the Yamaha families really helped us out a lot.
So, yes, there's definitely some things that will be improved this year, especially when it comes to drive grip and the way the motorcycle performs. And I personally think that they will close the gap even more.
But you have a guy like Jake who's already used to winning and running a pace, so we need to get up there right away and kind of slap him around a little bit if we can, or at least pressure him to see what he is made out of. And then we need to make that feeling habitual.
So, I think there will be great strides this year, yes. That being said, everyone else in the field is going to make great strides as well. So, I would expect some really good racing out of our team and out of everyone else's superbike team as well.
Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about the competition for 2023, because we see Danilo Petrucci exits, returns back to Europe. But then now, we hear that Tony Ellis is coming back and possibly even Cam Beaubier.
So, we've got between Jake Gagne, Cam Petersen, Mathew, Tony Ellis, and Cam Beaubier. Then you throw in maybe a guy like a wild card like Josh Herrin. You've got some pretty solid field coming into this year's superbike season.
Yeah, I mean, if we're being honest with each other Herrin hasn't ridden a superbike in a year or so. But that doesn't matter because that team's good enough and he knows which way to go around a track. They're going to be, I don't know for a fact, but I would assume they'd be in a 2023 spec bike, which is supposed to be even better than last year's. And last year's was really good.
I think there will be people who will vacillate in the field, who will come and go and come and go, but that top seven will be very unpredictable for every event as far as I'm concerned. There isn't any one particular entity that I'm personally concerned with, it's all of them. And anybody can come on at any time.
So, I feel that this would probably be the best year of MotoAmerica racing that we've had since the series has come to life. I think it's going to be exceptional.
Yeah, I think I agree. Like last year's was a great series in my mind, like I made sure I watched every episode. I mean, I'm impressed with the whole MotoAmerica series in general. It just seems like it continues to grow and progress and kind of be a true feeder series for like World Superbike and MotoGP, for those that want to take that path.
But I want to talk a little bit more about your role with the Westby team.
Being team manager, what do you do on a day-to-day basis? I mean, you've got 15 (probably more than that) people that you're managing. Many of these people, or rather have day jobs. They work for you on the weekends. So, tell us a little bit about your duties day-to-day running the Westby team.
My duties here at the race shop at my facility in Woodstock, Georgia are really composed of myself and a gentleman that has been working with me for quite a while, his name's Don Fanelli. And he works in the engine room and he takes care of our seven program and he also takes care of one of our customers at the track who rides with us.
So, it's just he and I here most of the time, and the dog, which is really good. So, it's really calm and quiet for the most part, except for when I lose my shit.
Everybody else for sure has a full-time job and they all have full-time jobs that are really important. It's like nobody's got a job that they can be really casual with, it requires a lot of their attention. But when those guys come to work, they're always all prepared and they've already done their homework and everything. So, when the team gets together, it really starts turning the wheel fast and it's greased nicely.
If it was decades ago when there were budgets where everybody could work in the same facility, the racing would be that much better. So, for me, it's not so much managing people, as it is parts and things coming and going, getting things to and from, taking care of a transporter, which is a new lesson every day.
Getting parts together when we have a test battery let go and there's a fire, setting up test dates, helping out with the travel and also, managing expectations. And honestly, it's mostly my expectations that need to get managed.
I don't know of any other team where everybody works together full-time anymore. At Attack, at Tytlers, at HSBK, at Aussie Dave racing, at M4 Vision Wheel. All those guys, there's all skeleton crews there.
So, I think for where we are right now, all of us are doing an amazing job. So, it's not like managing just a regular business. There's so many more ins and outs and nooks and crannies. And although you have to stay in your own lane, a lot of times everybody has to get in everybody else's lane if someone needs help.
So, it's a little confusing to be honest. I very much enjoy my job and I'm very lucky to be working with the people that I'm working with, and I'm very lucky to have the associates that I personally have. And that's from a personal point of view. All these people that are on this team are my friends and they really do a great job at taking care of me, and they make my job a lot easier.
So, a day in the life of Chuck Giacchetto for some people could be beautiful. And for other people it could be a big sack of asshole. So, it's …
Sounds to me like the primary, you're like a facilitator.
That's exactly what I am.
You're really just connecting the dots, making sure everybody has what they need. And so, as I imagine, that sort of carries over into a MotoAmerica weekend as well, you're just making sure that everybody has what they need to be able to do their jobs properly.
You hit the nail right on the head and I'm so glad that you did. Otherwise, I would've taken another 20 minutes of your time explaining something that you already know. So, thank you for that.
So, I also saw where you work closely with the MotoAmerica as an advisor. So, like what is that? Is that something to do with like rules and regulations or just maybe safety aspects, that type of thing?
It is. So, basically last year, myself and Richard Stanboli at Attack Performance, for the past four years or so, we're speaking together going, “We would really love to have some kind of a committee to discuss things like ADA does in the world championship. Where everybody can speak with the voice of one, we can put things to vote, et cetera, et cetera, with the sanctioning body, with MotoAmerica, with whoever we need to. So, we can all move in a little bit more fluid of a role.”
So, what's happened is there really isn't a head honcho yet. We haven't voted anybody in to be the mouthpiece, if you will. So far, Richard and I have been doing it all, but the rest of the teams have been very attentive and very responsive to the things that MotoAmerica wants to do and that we put on the table.
Keep in mind, the first things that we wanted to do was not to correct anything in the series, but just to get together to see who wants to test where, who's going to lodge where, who's taking what airline to see if we can combine some of that stuff and use similar entities to try and save everybody money and get transportation.
And it's gone from there to having votes on transmissions, having votes on spec fuels. It's basically an opinion-based group. So, in other words, I wouldn't say that MotoAmerica is going to make a change based on what we say, but I think that obviously, our decision, it'll influence them to steer a certain way or not.
And I'm grateful that they've given us that platform to do it. A lot of times when you have a bunch of sidebars and shit like that, it's people's opinions and they can get wildly emotional about it, myself included, first and foremost.
So, it's better to have it in a group type session. Richard usually will type up the minutes and then we hit it and try and get through it really quickly.
So, yeah, that role has been lights out. MotoAmerica's actually coming to us about more stuff, about more positive changes for everyone. So, I'm really happy. When you look at things since 2015, you go, “Well, the series this. Well, the series that. Well, this guy this. Well, that guy that.” Because it's all ebbs and flows and ups and downs.
But when you look at the body of work overall, the television's never been this good. The social media's never been this good. The participation is getting stronger with every event. The payout is very good. The premier team system is very good.
I would like to see them shorten the classes up a little bit. I'd like to have less going on during the events, but we have to do what we have to do right now, to get people to the track and make it fun for everyone. So, I think they definitely have their foot on the gas and they're working well with the Superbike committee, I can tell you that.
See that's the kind of stuff that to me, kind of separates MotoAmerica as far as they're just being proactive about trying to find ways to better and build the series overall.
And that was going to be one of my questions I was going to ask you, what in your mind like what is making MotoAmerica a legitimate feeder series as I said earlier for like World Superbike and MotoGP? Is there something you kind of attribute or is just a just kind of a whole bunch of things all together that are just making this series what it is?
Well, I think it starts at the head over there at MotoAmerica, those guys have a vision and a plan and they keep altering the recipe as they go. Sometimes you need a little more sugar, sometimes you need a little more spice. So, those guys add a dash of this and a dash of that and sometimes they take the whole cauldron of water and throw it out the window.
I think they've learned from their mistakes. I don't think they've made a bunch of them. Most of everything they've done has been very positive. We keep on saying that we want this to be a doorway to Europe. I'm not so sure that that is an accurate depiction of what we're doing anymore.
Yeah, not anymore.
Right. And it's no one's fault. But to get from here to Europe is difficult. And it's difficult because sponsorship is difficult right now. Would I say, are they looking at riders in the MotoAmerica series now? Absolutely. They know exactly what's going on over here. When I say they, I mean the people in World Superbike and MotoGP. They know exactly what's going on over here.
But their talent pools are so deep in Europe because road racing is accepted like baseball here. So, if we're looking for a pitcher, we can find one at eight years old and groom them. We're not going to really do that with motorcycle road racing unfortunately.
So, I think for me, I do enjoy going and doing a wild card every now and then, but we have our feet solidly planted here in America and I think we can have guys start racing here, make a living and retire here if they wanted to.
The ultimate goal for sure would be able to climb a ladder of succession, especially if you're a kid on an R3, you go to the R7, you go to maybe an R9 if it comes out, you go to an R1 and then you take off over into the world championship.
I don't know that that road is paved as easily as it used to be if I'm being honest. But the technology certainly is there and the sharing of information and the road to get there is there. All that stuff is right there for the taking if you're right with the right manufacturer.
With Yamaha, we are, we're very fortunate. Everybody speaks with everybody very openly. We can exchange notes, we can exchange data. We have a super good platform when it comes to Yamaha. I think Ducati has done the same thing. I think BMW is very close to having that, if they don't already have it.
It would be great to know more about what's going on with Suzuki in Japan and would be great to get Kawasaki and Honda back in here. I don't know when and if that's ever going to happen, but it doesn't always come back to money. It comes back to what people are willing to share and what they're willing to put into a program.
There is a correct way to go about doing things and generally that's the factory way. So, we're learning all the time, so it's difficult to keep your eye on the ball.
Yeah. So, you mentioned it there just a little bit ago about these wildcard appearances and I noticed you traveled to the World Superbike season finale in Portimao in Portugal and I think with Attack Yamaha team for their wildcard appearance.
Tell us about that experience. Like was that kind of just sort of the check in, a little bit of a maybe a scouting mission just to see what's going on over there?
Yeah. Well, Richard invited me because of some help that I had given those guys that I give the team because we work so closely. So, of course, I wanted to accept the invitation. They really didn't need my help over there because they had a really good crew, like they usually do.
I went over there and ended up setting up a bunch of meetings with the guys again at YME from Yamaha Motor Race in Europe. And that's where it all started and ended for me. I was there to support the guys at Attack as an American and I did, but what I learned as far as protocols, processes, and all kinds of things like that from the world team was amazing.
To be able to look and see what's going on inside one of their motorcycles is incredible. It's not that much different than what we're doing here at all.
The difference is the way they utilize certain things and pieces and parts and the way they organize things and the way they run their team. Attack is a lot closer to them than the Westby Racing is. But Westby Racing wants to catch up to that.
And then inevitably, we should all try and catch up to that just in our walks of life because I learned more about being a manager in those four days than I have in 30 years. I'm not a college graduate who went to school to manager or anything like that. I was a grunt in the pit and came through.
So, that's really my newest interest now is trying to get better and set the table for everybody else that works for us, so we have a great line of communication, path the least resistance, if you will.
It's always fascinating to go into one of those, either whether it's MotoGP or World Superbike Paddock and it is really just a different world. No matter how cool it is in the MotoAmerica Paddock, it's just a different level when you go over to Europe, isn't it?
It is, and it's so exciting and those guys made us feel so warm and welcome. I mean, if I can tell you the hospitality over there and the way they interact is really great. I mean, we're part of a good family here with YMUS, but it's a much bigger deal overseas.
So, I think that if you can calm down and relax and get over the fact that everything there is really special, then you can just focus on your work. The facility itself at Portimao is pretty exceptional because everything's set to a world standard.
So, everywhere you go on that world championship calendar has all of the same niceties that a track like Portimao would. It has a proper garage or the proper airlines, water, electricity, the garage layout is the same every time. So, essentially you're just going from your home to your home, to your home, to your home.
Whereas here in the United States, and I would imagine in some of the other series, some of the other national series, things change. You might have a garage one weekend, you're under a canopy the next. Your garages are definitely not on pit road, there might be a walk to pit road. So, they do some of those things differently.
Before you finish today's episode, first, we have a word from our sponsor.
Just from talking with you, I can just tell by the enthusiasm in your voice though, Chuck, that this is more than a job to you. And I think you even mentioned that earlier. So, you've been now, I think for 15 years with the Westby team. I mean, is this role with you kind of like your ideal role and you kind of can consider yourself to be a lifer in this position?
I think unless something changes really dramatically, and when I say really dramatically, I mean like really life altering or something happened to the world where I had to do something else to survive or the country calls on you for Armageddon or something like that, I would say yes.
There are aspects of the job that I don't like as much as others, but racing is — like my favorite food is pepperoni pizza, racing's like pizza. When it's good, it's great. And when it's shitty, it’s still pretty damn good.
I like that.
Well, I mean, seriously. So, I mean, if go to the track and you smash all your shit and everything like that, it's like, “Well, where are we going next?” “Oh, we're going to another racetrack, we can redeem ourselves again.”
So, yeah, you hit it the nail right on the head. I love it. I love it, I love the people I'm working with and I'm exceptionally lucky.
So, what would you say is the ultimate goal for both you and the team? And would you say they're aligned? Are they one and the same?
Short term? Yes, absolutely. We need to win a championship and at the very least be in the real thick of it. No more runway wins for anybody unless there's a big pile up or something like that, or the earth cracks open. So, we need to be right there for that. That's the first short-term goal, that in getting the team moving is one, which I think Ed Sullivan will do a brilliant job with.
Long-term goal for me, I know Tryg Westby is not going to do this for the rest of his life. I wish he could do it and would do it for the rest of my life, but everything has to come to an end. I don't see it anytime soon. But you got to be ready for that.
And at that point, I'll keep a program going. If we have the budget for it, then we'll continue on Superbike. If we don't, then we're going to do whatever Yamaha tells us to.
So, I would very much like to be a team owner at some point. I do have another business that's called GiaccMoto, that is Yamaha endorsed, and we head up the R7, the twins development and we have two separate teams running in that.
So, I kind of run that as a parallel with Westby Racing. It's a very small part of the equation and Westby is involved in that a little bit as well.
So, I would say that's the only thing that I wouldn't say will change, but that could mature. But I can tell you that I'm not leaving Westby Racing to pursue my dreams full-time because this is my dream full-time. GiaccMoto is something to satisfy my own personal needs.
Maybe someday it could be as big as Westby Racing, but I'm all in for Westby Racing. I have been since the very first time I met Tryg and I will be, I'm sure long after we're done. This is now, a part of my life and that guy and his family and all our team members are really very special to me. So, it would have to be something stupid for me to cash in my chips now.
I mean, it's such a passion driven sport and I feel like if you don't have it, it's noticeable. And so, yeah, I mean, when you go to the races, you're surrounded by people that are just that's what — they love it. And like you said, like you've turned it into something that's like your career.
So, what would you say is the most challenging and the most rewarding parts of your job as team manager?
If I'm being honest, it's mine and my Ps and Qs. Because there used to be this guy over at Yamaha who ran the whole deal and did a wonderful great things for the motor company and for racing in all disciplines. His name was Keith McCarty. I mean, he doesn't need any introduction.
And that guy told me one time, he says, “Giacchetto, I'm going to give you a piece of information, some advice.” And I said, “Okay.” And he said, “When emotions run high, logic runs low.” And essentially, it's, keep your shit together and tight and make a sound decision. Don't make any decisions based off emotion or spur of the moment or knee jerk.
That's exceptionally difficult to do, especially for a guy like me. If I'm experiencing something that I'm overjoyed with, I'll probably end up crying and weeping. If there's loss, I'll end up crying and weeping. If there's something great that happens, we're going to be incredibly emotional. We're going to celebrate like we just won the Super Bowl.
But to manage those emotions up and down is difficult because it also sets the tone for how the team is received and what kind of a workplace that the team has. So, if I go in there and I'm just a cranky bastard someday, everybody else is going to be cranky. If I'm in a great mood and I'm bouncing off the walls and I'm too excitable, then the guys aren't going to be able to get anything done just the same.
So, I would say that I'm working on myself every day and then transfer it into what I do with the team. So, if we get that straight, that's the first thing. And I should say we, because it's me, myself, and I. We get that straight, then the rest of the pieces will come together and it'll be easier to identify any problems we have and it'll be easy to identify all the positives that we have and we can work on them.
The other thing that you need to remember is that 90% of the people that we work with and that we're in contact with are veterans of the sport and are really good at their given positions. So, we've been really fortunate with that as well.
We've been able to attract good workers to come here and good workers to have their input and we can learn from them. It's a very difficult time right now, in America and I would say in the world to have people come on board and do the right thing and do a fantastic job for you. And we're lucky right now, we've got those people.
So, that's about it. We don't lack for budget, we don't lack for talent, we don't lack for materials. We just got to get it all together. And I think this year the guys could make with some really wonderful music. They're out testing tomorrow on the next day at Buttonwillow again. So, I know they have a full slate of electronics testing planned and that's the next dragon to slay.
Well, you kind of alluded it to it already that you're surrounded by just a fantastic group of people.
And one other thing I wanted to mention though, speaking of a fantastic group of people, is Westby Racing's Wing Warriors, which is from the description I read is a special group of Westby Racing fans and team supporters. Tell us about that, because it sounds like it's for those out there who want to get involved in road racing, this is a way to support a superbike race team.
It is, and it's not about financially supporting a team, it's about supporting a team through integrity and fun and emotions and stuff like that. So, basically, if you're a serious fan of Westby Racing, you can go to the website and become a part of this Wing Warrior Club.
And with that Wing Warrior Club, you get a lanyard and a t-shirt and a little placard and some other things, and you can come and go in and out of our hospitality area accordingly during a race weekend.
Where you can come in, have a little snack or something like that, have some refreshments, maybe get a tour of the facility, maybe get some FaceTime with Mathew, certainly with myself and some of the other crew members. And then of course, the guy who runs the deal, Tryg, and everybody loves talking to him, so.
Our team definitely, has a meet and greet feel to it. A lot of other teams don't do it because they don't have the time and the assets to do it. We're a bit more fortunate in that way and it's become kind of a backbone or a pillar of what Westby Racing does.
What's neat is the first two official members of the Wing Warriors Fan Club were my mom and my sister, they're members one and two. So, they kind of founded the whole thing and they never miss a race.
So, the whole thing is really a family affair and the dues are very inexpensive, the annual dues. And I think that the people actually get a lot for the money that they spend, but they really do get the inside poke.
I mean, when you're in our hospitality area, there really aren't many secrets. You can see and hear everything that's going on. So, if the bike smashed flat, you're going to see it worked on and repaired. If we won, you're probably going to get some champagne in your hair. There's a lot of sharing. It gets you up close and personal to what we're doing.
And I would encourage more people, whether they're Wing Warriors or not, to come out and have a little taste of that with some of the other teams in the paddock as well. There's a lot of other great people in the paddock and great riders who deserve attention.
Well, that sounds like an absolutely fantastic experience for anyone who wants to experience MotoAmerica and Superbike racing.
Well, Chuck, I really appreciate your time today and getting to know you a little more and tell some of your story. Any last words you'd like to share before we wrap up this episode?
No, I just want to thank you guys. I continue to be really lucky and reap the benefits of being part of this team and part of a wonderful organization like Yamaha. I'm a lucky guy and I hope everybody has the same or close to the same experience as I do. And we'll love it so much that they give back as much as I do and as much as we do.
I would encourage everyone to come out to a race if you can and look us up. If you can't, try and watch it on YouTube or on the MotoAmerica Live+ channel, there's all kinds of outlets. There'll be some more outlets being announced.
And I don't think there's anything like a real live experience. So, if you can get out, get out. And if you're having a problem getting out, maybe send a little query over to the Westby office and get a lanyard for the weekend and come hang out with us.
Definitely. Well, we wish you all the best on a fantastic 2023 season to you and the rest of the team, and of course, rider, Mathew Scholtz. Hopefully, we'll be seeing you guys on the podium quite a bit this year.
Man, thank you very much. I appreciate the well wishes. I really do.
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I'm Dale Spangler, I hope you'll join us next week for another episode of Pit Pass Moto. Thanks for listening.