Julien da Costa: a rider turned Dunlop engineer
Julien da Costa ran his final Endurance race at Le Mans in August 2020. In 2021, he is happily working as a Dunlop tyre engineer.
Only a few months ago, Julien da Costa was wearing his leathers in the saddle of a factory bike. He was riding the Ducati ERC Endurance in his final race, the 2020 24 Heures Motos. The 39-year-old French rider has now swapped his leathers for a probe kit to check tyre and ground temperatures.
Julien da Costa expands on the reasons for his rapid but carefully prepared switch. “It was a well-considered decision and I’m much happier now. Various events have given me pause for thought over the past few years. I no longer felt I was the best and in top-level sport, it’s the beginning of the end when you’re no longer convinced you’re the best. I spent time retraining: I’ve worked for Dunlop for six years now, five as a rider and as a track engineer for the past year. At the end of the day, Covid has helped me move on from my life as a rider. I’ve had the time to go through the transition and get started with this new job.”
We speak the same language
Julien da Costa falls into a category of his own among Dunlop’s engineers because of his former career as a rider. His track record includes three wins at the 24 Heures Motos and a Bol d’Or win from 2010 to 2012 as well as an FIM EWC world championship title in 2013. As a result, he is well placed to understand riders’ needs.
“A rider listening to another rider is better placed to understand him than the average person. I also have a certain level of credibility because of my career. I hope they respect me and above all that they trust me. I try to grasp their feelings and give them advice if they’re feeling a bit lost when testing a new tyre. I can understand their analysis and give them a few tips. I was in their shoes not long ago and I still know how it feels. I like the mechanical side of things, understanding the technical aspects and analysing data. I enjoy what I do and I can confidently give them certainties, not just speculation.”
Julien da Costa is popular with the riders.
“Six months ago he was riding a bike, just like us,” says Webike SRC Kawasaki France Trickstar rider Jérémy Guarnoni. “It’s ace. It’s the first time in my career as a rider that I have these sorts of conversations with a tyre engineer. The other manufacturers should follow the example. Hiring a former rider as a tyre engineer means we’re speaking the same language. 90% of the time, a tyre engineer lays out his theory but you don’t really trust him because he hasn’t tested the tyres. Julien knows everything there is to know about all the tyres we’ve tested. It’s a big advantage having him on side. “
Erwan Nigon and David Checa share their teammate’s opinion, though Checa adds: “It feels weird because he was one of my rivals in the past. There are fewer and fewer of them on the track these days. It makes me feel old.”