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Yamaha’s top tech gun headed to finals in Japan

Kelowna technician wins Canadian title in company challenge

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Nick King of Kelowna, B.C., entered this year’s Yamaha Technician Grand Prix knowing he had finished second twice before and hoping the third time would be a charm.

His hopes were affirmed, as he was crowned the 2014 champion earlier this week and will now move on to represent Canada as he competes against the best Yamaha technicians from around the globe in Japan this October.

The Yamaha Tech GP is a biannual competition founded in 2001 to recognize and motivate the company’s most-talented technicians worldwide.

The process to determine a Canadian champion is rigorous. It starts with all 1,000 qualifying technicians from 460 Yamaha dealerships across the country taking a 50-question written test.

Those who score at least 80 per cent then take a second exam to test their knowledge of trade scenarios, motorcycle engineering, and the history of Yamaha and its products.

From there, the top 10 are selected and flown to the Canadian head office in Toronto, to endure a full day of hands-on testing under the scrutiny of judges from Yamaha and Conestoga College.

The finalists worked their way through a rotation of lab stations that challenged them on various scenarios they might encounter. Each must be completed in 30 minutes or less.

Several skills were tested, such as diagnosing an issue with one of Yamaha’s new three-cylinder engines, resolving a botched clutch repair, identifying problems while performing a scheduled maintenance inspection, testing a bike equipped with a new anti-lock braking system, and getting the engine to turn over in a Yamaha Bolt that wouldn’t start — a test that only three of the nine technicians completed.

The most feared challenge, however, was a scenario in which the technicians had to stand in for an absent salesperson to deliver a new motorcycle to a customer. There were several wrinkles thrown in, such as starting them out with the wrong key.

“It’s not something I think any of these technicians here do on a normal basis,” says King, who found this station the most challenging. “The mechanic part of (the competition) is second nature to most of these guys, so it’s easier to get through that portion.”

The finalists all agreed the event reaffirms the important role technicians play at Yamaha.

“It’s incredibly great to be acknowledged for the good side of what we do,” says finalist Luke Pakkala, head technician and service manager for Oakville Yamaha. “Often, the only time any technician gets pointed out is when we make mistakes, so positive recognition for anybody in the industry is good.”

National service manager Jeff Waite agrees.

“We can build the best product, but it goes in a crate. We need the technicians to be the final check before it gets into the hands of the consumer,” he says. “So the role that the technician plays in the initial impression and customer satisfaction in the product is key. That’s why we want to recognize these guys.”

As King prepares to represent Canada in Japan, he says the competition offers benefits from both a company-wide and more personal perspective.

“It keeps the techs on top of new technology and keeps everybody on their game,” he says.

“It’s just about bettering myself, challenging myself, and trying to be number one. And the trip to Japan is obviously a nice prize, too.”

wheels@thestar.ca

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