Walking past the glitzy paint job of a Team 23 trailer into a cool stainless and chrome interior of a bonafide racing trailer on a hot race day is rejuvenating. Seeing a sturdy Harry Latigue poised over an elevated motorcycle manipulating tools into the heart of a high-speed machine like a surgeon is impressive. We chatted with Harry while he tinkered with the motorcycle:
How did you get to be a professional tuner?
"I've been a tuner since 1976. Went professional in 1978. I used to ride. Started in 1976. I got off the bike in 1992 when drag bike racing became a jockey sport. I always had a ten pound disadvantage. I put Michael Phillips on a bike and took him to number four in 1992. "
What mental preparation do you have to do to get your bike ready for your rider?
"I prepare the bike bumper to bumper. I need the right perspective. The weather conditions. The track conditions. The bike's condition. I'm always thinking one race ahead. I'm already half way to the next dragstrip, and we have two more days of racing here. I have a game plan before each race. I prepare the rider for changes, so there are no surprises. I tell the rider the bike will do this, look for this. That kind of preparation."
Do you go more by your computer or your gut feelings?
"I use the computer as a base line. The weather meter as a gauge. I apply my experience to the adjustments. The tuner has to know as much or more than the rider. The rider and the tuner have to work together. A well-prepared cyclist gives him a tenth. Race day morning the win is the racer. I can't teach him how to ride."
Do you use your weather data or do you taste air?
"I use both."
How do you get up when your performance gets down?
"Chalk it up to experience. Write it down in the computer. Don't do this again. I prepare for the bad run every run."
Who are your heroes?
"Terry Vance, Byron Hines. I respect mechanical ability. I can't do what they do, but I take the motor and try to make it better."
What do you do to relax?
"I'm relaxed when I'm working."
Are you happy?
"I'm one happy guy. I happy with Tony, with Troy Vincent. Now I don't even have to drive the rig."
What could make you happier?
"I couldn't be happier."
From the moment we met Harry we were all ears. We knew his experience was going to offer an angle on racing that we couldn't find elsewhere. His cordial and expert chat was enlightening.
Our one word description of this super technician:
We include words painted on the trailer of Team 23. No doubt, their credo: "One team, One mind, One purpose." "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."