“Albanian people: kind and hospitable” – Interview with Marcel Duinker

The Dutch Marcel Duinker – in addition to be a track race engineer, chief technician to Team Kawasaki, of which the English racer Tom Sykes is competing to the World Super-bike Championship 2013- is at the same time friends with Albanian people and Albania.

His connection and sympathy towards Albania?

It is, due to the fact that he got married to an Albanian woman. Marcel and Arjana live in Belgium and they have two beautiful children.

Today Marcel is here with us to do an interview, through a good talk about his profession and passion for motorbikes, Albania, Italy and much more.

Marcel, welcome to Albania News.

Hi, thank you for inviting me.

First of all, congratulations for the results achieved in the World Super-bike Championship 2013, where Tom Sykes, an amazing racer of your Team is competing for the world title. I believe this is due to the racer’s great quality but also thanks to the team work, amazingly supervised by you.

Thank you so much.
My position has a huge responsibility for our team. I built our group and I lead my team, I’m the coordinator and also responsible for anything that happens around it. We work in a team made out of 10 members, among which technicians, mechanics, engineers.

The responsibility of decisions, that have been made for the team and the racer himself, is exclusively mine. I’m the first one to suggest ideas and after it we will be studying and contemplating according to them with the team. It is correct to say that I am responsible for everything, but it is also fair to say that we work as a team and our results depend on it, given by the agreement and harmony of the team. Our harmony and collaboration are very strong and this made it possible for the positive results that we got so far.

Marcel Duinker e Tom Sykes
Marcel Duinker and the British motorcycle road racer, World Super-bike title contender, 2013, Tom Sykes.

From the recent races of the World Championship SBK 2013, I followed the one in the Laguna Seca circuit, where Tom Sykes won. However, the race- divided in two parts for safety reasons- during the second half, focused in 12 rounds, got more intense and aggressive. How was the experience of it for you in the pit garage?

I have been doing this job for 13 years and the emotions are always the same. We start the race with a positive energy/attitude, it begins gradually from Thursday then it reaches the top level during the race on Sunday. It is an unusual job concerning strong emotions, the passion brings us together, it motivates us and does all other wonders involving this job.

We have the same feelings as the racer himself, more or less. We are so passionate about it that it seems like we are racing with him. It gives us positive energy. We wait for him to win with great emotions and the intensity of it increases when we notice that the racer is doing great and he is going to win the race.
In other words, this is what I feel while I follow the race through the screen.

When did your passion for bikes begin?

I grew up in an island located in the North of Netherlands. My father used to run a dealership and I spent my childhood around motorbikes. So it’s thanks to my dad that I have this passion for bikes and it became a natural thing as I was surrounded by this environment.

So, Marcel you spent your early days among bikes, it is maybe because of that, that you kept studying engines and motorbikes. You graduated in automotive engineering. Given your degree, has your view about motorbikes changed?

I have to say that my love for bikes has not changed a bit even after my degree. I should add that since I was a child I was very determined in what I was going to be once I grew older, focusing on the profession I am doing right now!

I can gladly tell you that- while attending elementary school- when the teacher asked us the usual question: “What are you going to be when you’ll grow older?” I knew what I was going to say to her about my dream on this job and more: I could entertain her for several minutes talking about motorbikes. Therefore, I was already sure and determined over this job.

From the University, I kept in mind what I learned about discipline and which method to choose and use so that you can obtain the best exploit from a motorbike. I also learned how to analyze different situations with different levels of difficulty.

In the end, I realized that everything I do now is something natural, studying is not enough to succeed. It is something that grows in you and you have to dedicate yourself to it with passion, you need to add the experience you get over the years, responsibility and discipline.


While I was reading the story of your life I noticed that when you were 18 you got a job as a technician at Honda. You became Aoki’s technician, the racer who won the World Championship that year. What did it mean for you- at such a young age- the victory of the racer you followed?

I was so young then that unfortunately, I could not enjoy the victory of Aoki, I was only thinking about having fun with the trips and transfers connected to the races.

That year had been a dream for me- I worked with them just for a year- after it I began University and everything changed. That working experience was just a dream, some sort of transition.

When you carefully follow the racers from your Kawasaki pit garage, do you ever think about racing yourself?

As a matter of fact, I do not really have any wish in competing in a race especially because there are very few amazing racers in the world, so clearly if anyone of us was going to imitate them he would become ridiculous. (he smirks)

They grew up on their bikes! It’s like that in every sport- particularly when we think of world champions- it would be impossible to imitate them.
At last, each to his own!

Is there a specific race in your heart?

Many races, different feelings and I could not distinguish any, but during the final race of last year’s World Championship, in Magny-Cours circuit situated in France, our man, Tom Sykes, won the race, but for the difference of just one point in the scores, Max Biaggi got the first place.

During the first race in Australia, Tom fell and he was not in good shape, in Spain we got some technical problems. But then it was the Netherlands turn and we won! That race was definitely a positive turning point for us.

I need to say that I consider that race as the most special one and since then we have done nothing but winning!
Before that race we were placed sixth and after that, only positive vibes came toward us.

Who is one of the Italian racers that you professionally know better?

It is Marco Melandri.
I think he is a really talented pilot. On a personal note, I think he retired too quickly from Moto GP (to go to Super-bike category). He should have kept going on and he could have won the Championship this year.

Marcel and his wife, Arjana, in Tirana

Have you ever been to Albania? What are your impressions about the cities you have visited, or about Albanian traditions? If you have visited the capital, Tirana, what was the most interesting thing you saw?

Yes, I have been in Albania once. I visited Tirana.
As soon as I saw the capital, I told myself: “Ok, this is the city where my wife was born and where she grew up!”
I suddenly had the impression that -years ago- it had not been easy to live there. Especially nowadays I noticed that, although Albania is geographically close to Europe- above all with the North of Europe- it still is very far away.
I also saw the beautiful nature in Albania, the climate is great, but my impression is that, unfortunately, Albanian people themselves, cannot completely realize how fine and pretty this nature is, caused by difficulties and absence of infrastructures and organization on the way of life of the country.

The first three or four days, it was not easy for me to familiarize with what was around me, but afterwards I felt great. One thing got my attention particularly: the traffic around Tirana! I have to say that I drove a car in Brazil, Indonesia, Africa, Russia but, the traffic in Tirana is unique!

After a little while, though, I started to learn how to manage the circulation and traffic rules there!

I was really impressed about the hospitality of Albanian people! Everyone we met were really kind and reliable, they were people with an easy way to communicate with us and these kind of things have a place in my heart.

I suppose that you know a little bit about the Albanian cuisine. What is one of the specialties, typically Albanian, that you enjoy eating?

I did not learn about Albanian cuisine when I visited the country because we eat lots of typical Albanian dishes in my house, my wife cooks them.

However, a typical specialty that I really enjoy is Byrek, the one with a twirled shape and served with a natural yogurt cream, dressed with garlic and olive oil. (he smiles)

In Tirana, I savoured the quality and taste of the beer “Tirana”.

And in Italy, which places have you visited on holiday?

Italy- both my wife and I, think- is our favorite place to go on holidays. It’s absolutely one of our favorites where we love to spend relaxing days with the family.

We have visited Lugano’s Lake, and we have skied in Madesimo, in Lombardia.

Are you willing to come back to Italy and visit some other city?

Of course we are. We would love to visit Venice and Rome. We are fascinated by Italian history, culture, art.
In addition to all these things, as what concern Italian cuisine, well, we think it is the best one in Europe!

I especially like Japanese cuisine and I consider it the best on a global level, but in Europe, Italian cuisine- is the winning country.

In the end Marcel, which is the message that you want to give to young people concerning speed limits on the road, when they generally drive cars and particularly motorbikes?

When you are young, usually, you don’t get the feeling of danger while driving. I myself, when I was really young, used to go fast on my motorbike, and I for sure didn’t realize the risks I was going through, for myself and for the other people too. When I turned 25 years old, I gained more awareness about what I was risking while driving that way.
Everything that is on TV regarding races does not have to be imitated, for no reason. Circuits are on another level, while on the road, you have to respect rules and speed limits.

I often get to see young people riding their bikes too fast and without the right equipment for their own safety and protection. Motorbike racers wear sophisticated clothes, projected and studied for their safety.

I’m very disappointed when I see young people, who risk their lives, in these kinds of situations.
So, I want to recommend them to be very prudent, use the right precautions and to be respectful for the traffic laws.

Translated by Francesca Fazio


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