Brian Lunniss made his name as a top motocross mechanic, rolling out winning machines for more than 25 years. He spoke to D3O’s Impact Magazine team about how his experience feeds into his work as Mechanix Wear’s Research and Development Director.
What took you from the saddle into the pit lane?
I started riding at the age of ten and raced for the first time at 14. I was a mid-pack racer so my career was not that bright. As a young rider, you have to work on your own equipment and learn the mechanics of keeping your bike together, which was something I enjoyed. I then got hurt in a crash, so just working on motocross bikes was the next step.
I happened to be in the right place at the right time and Suzuki motorcycles hired me to work on their racing bikes. Which in turn started my 25-plus years with the four major Japanese manufacturers’ factory motocross teams.
I consider myself very lucky to have been involved in the industry during the age of discovery.
What separates a good mechanic from a great one?
There’s no magic ingredient. Just like in life, it’s about hard work and being keenly observant of everything around you. Paying attention to detail and being open minded to new things every day.
Being technically proficient is obviously important but the great mechanics spot things that others overlook, both large and small.
What makes for a great rider-mechanic relationship?
You have to be: a) coach; b) big brother; c) buddy; d) tactician; and e) psychologist. Oh, and mechanic/engineer too. I was very lucky to learn early on how much of this sport is in the mind.
There’s now a lifetime achievement award for mechanics in your name – is wrenching still a great career for kids?
I am very honoured that an award was made in my name. We presented it for the first time this May. Ron Malec, the chief mechanic for seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, is a very worthy recipient having spent his career in racing from humble beginnings.
Young people ask me all the time about the career path for a mechanic – they might be working in a lower-level race team or just tinkering with motorcycles, cars or even mountain bikes.
Not everyone wants to follow the higher education route. Working with your hands and using your mind is something that will hopefully be in demand for a long time. It’s a great career for anyone interested in two- or four-wheeled vehicles.
How has your first-hand experience helped in the development of protective gloves?
I was working as race mechanic for the Yamaha MX Factory race team in the USA when I came up with the idea of making a work glove. At that time, we were using white string knit cotton gloves imported from Japan. Then the US placed a ban on cotton imports!
Some mechanics wore baseball batting gloves for pit stops. Not only were they made of thin leather, which meant you needed new ones every weekend, they weren’t even sold in pairs! You had to buy separate left hands and right hands.
We were handling hot exhaust pipes, any number of parts, and changing tyres on and off the rims most days of the week. I’ve used my hands to work on racing cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles and so on for most of my adult life, so I understand what’s needed in terms of fit and feel.
Then you have to factor in protection for specific tasks, including impact protection, and the requirement for high dexterity to be able to work with small parts.
It began with ‘The Original’ glove – and we haven’t looked back.
This article was originally published in Issue 05 of Impact Magazine, which is available to download from our Resources area.