Twentythree years old, from Barton-le-Clay, son of the former Manx GP rider and classic bikes tuner Steven Neate.
He is Samuel Neate, Sam for the friends, one of those lads you can meet at every race you go. That’s because, despite his young
age, his curriculum is extremely enviable: mechanic for years in the British Superbike Championship, mechanic for PTR in the World Supersport Championship, mechanic for Padgett’s and Paul Bird Motorsport for the road races.
During his intense career, Sam has worked for Clive Padgett’s team alongside John McGuinness, still a close friend of his; in fact, Neate is more like a family member in Morecambe. With Padgett’s he also lived first hand the amazing experience of 2010 TT, with Ian Hutchinson winning 5 races out of 5. Sam returned to work alongside Hutchy in 2015, too: from 2013 season Neate is chassis technician for Paul Bird Motorsport, playing a pivotal role for Hutchy’s 3 wins at 2015 TT and for the amazing comeback of Stuart Easton in BSB. Let’s the man himself do the talking.
Sam, you are quite young but you already have a respectful knowledge in motorcycling, one for all the 2010 TT. What’s the best memory and the biggest satisfaction of your career so far?
That is true, I’ve been going racing since I was about 3 days old I think. Feel a lot older than 23. I think the most satisfying thing memory for me was in 2015 working with Stuart Easton and winning at Oulton Park. Everybody writes Stuart off as a rider. It was really good to see him finally get the result I thought he deserved. Especially to comeback after all the injuries he’s had. Was special for all of us. It was nice for him to silence some doubters.
You have a lot of experience as a mechanic in road racing, BSB and World Supersport as well. Are there any differences between these environments and in the way teams work, considering both mechanics and riders? Which is the most impressive approach to racing in terms of precision and determination?
Yeah, I’ve been around a bit already. Road racing is a lot more critical in terms of working. Like if you make a small mistake at a road race it can have a fatal effect worse case but at the same time it cocks sessions up, say something breaks. The rider is stuck 23 miles away or whatever, and that messes everything up. Practise is limited on the roads, so it has to be right first time out. That said, BSB and WSS were just as important but you always know, that if it does go wrong you can always try and fix it. Since working for PBM, we put a lot of effort into making it right at the workshop, to make life easier at the track. Paul is probably more determined than any other boss I’ve worked for. I’m sure he gets a buzz out of proving other people wrong, and if that means to have the best bits for the bikes or staff, we will have the best bits. It’s good that way.
During an interview after 2015 TT, Ian Hutchinson said that he was afraid of changing the rear tyre during the Superstock race, because it isn’t an easy thing to do especially in such a hectic moment. He also revealed (laughing) that he told you he “didn’t want to see a nut rolling down the pit lane” during the pit stop. How much pressure do you feel in those moments? What goes through your head?
I really didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to walk back into parc ferme and get a bollocking off “Birdy” for messing it up. But then we had 3 goes at it in the awning, and by the 3rd go we’d got it pretty much nailed. But that didn’t change the fact I was really nervous doing it. When I fired the gun to take the nut off, all I could hear was Ian shouting “Fuel, Fuel arghhhh”. So that took my mind off what I was doing anyway.
Who is the most impressive rider, in terms of skills and determination alongside his ‘human aspect’, you have worked with?
Determination: Ian Hutchinson. Ridiculously determined. Knows what he wants, usually gets it too.
Skill Set: Stuart Easton. Most naturally talented rider I’ve worked for.
Human aspect: John McGuinness. Working for your best mate.
I know you team up with your brother in the Classic Endurance. Have you ever thought about taking part in a pure road race, in order to see racing from the other point of view?
Yeah I’ve always dreamed of doing some races again. The Classic Endurance is so much fun and it doesn’t bankrupt my dad like Superstock used too. I’m only young so maybe one day?
Given your vast experience, would you say most of the riders trust their mechanics or is there any particular rider who wants to know the bike inside out and check it before going out?
The ones I’ve worked with generally have. Hutchy liked to know what was going on at first but I think he was ok in the end. He used to be a mechanic at a bike shop, so could do and knows all the things we are doing so sometimes I felt a bit of pressure working in front of him. I don’t like or have never liked being watched that much. But the TT you don’t really have a choice. So you tend to ignore people or you end up making mistakes.
Is there a particular race you are always happy to go to as a mechanic for different reasons, e.g. environment, track, people? What about a race or an event you’d like to spanner at but you’ve never managed to?
The Isle of Man has always been my favourite. The crack is usually good at night time. Sometimes can escape during the day for an hour. It’s like to have the BSB Workshop in a field with all your mates about. I like it there. I’d love to do a full season in MotoGP. I have no commitments in my personal life so there is nothing really stopping me from seeing the world. We’ll see maybe one day.
Good luck Sam!