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MotoGP Q&A - Michael Bartholemy (Marc VDS)

“…We also have the commitment from Honda and Gresini that [Scott] will get a factory MotoGP bike in the second year” - Michael Bartholemy.
An exclusive interview with Marc VDS team principal Michael Bartholemy, who in addition to running Mika Kallio and new signing Esteve Rabat in Moto2, plus Livio Loi in Moto3, is personal manager for Scott Redding.

Redding led most of last year's Moto2 World Championship for Marc VDS before suffering a broken wrist in Australia. The young Englishman is stepping up to MotoGP this season, riding the new Honda RCV1000R Production Racer, for Gresini.

Redding was 21st fastest during the opening MotoGP test of the year at Sepang, when all the Open Honda riders were overshadowed by the performance of Forward Yamaha's Aleix Espargaro.

Bartholemy discusses the test, explains the choices that had been available to Redding in MotoGP this season - and confirms that the second year of Redding's MotoGP contract will see him step up to a Factory-class RC213V…

Crash.net:
Hi Michael, you've just got off the airplane haven't you?

Michael Bartholemy:
Yes, I've just got to go to the hotel and then I'm off to the circuit when I've collected some stuff for the guys. I'm at Jerez for the Moto2 and Moto3 testing. Last week Valencia and this week Jerez.

Crash.net:
For most teams your last season would have been a great success, but maybe you feel disappointed by how it ended?

Michael Bartholemy:
For sure it was a difficult season. We started so well and got some good results, it was a great feeling for me as a manager too. We got results like the first and second at Le Mans and that made me feel proud, it's the kind of season that I may look back on in 20 years as having good memories.

We also won at some circuits where we weren't expecting it, like Mugello where Scott started looking a bit untouchable and up to then everything was going fantastically.

It was just unfortunate that at a circuit where we knew we could make it and a circuit where Scott had had always got strong results that we had such a terrible day. We felt that we could have made a bigger gap to Pol Espargaro for the last two rounds but that wasn't to be. It was hard to realise that we were going to come second after expecting so much more.

At a personal level it's probably the third or fourth time that I've come second in a world championship and taking the bouquet of flowers for the first loser again was not pleasant.

The team knew that Scott was leaving at the end of the season and was hoping to send him off with the title so that made it doubly disappointing. Also I think it would have been good for the championship to have someone winning who wasn't Spanish because all the podiums last year were basically our guys and then Spanish riders.

Crash.net:
It sounds as if you took the disappointment at a personal level.

Michael Bartholemy:
I think that the difference between me and many other people involved in this sport is that this is all that I do. I live the sport, love it and put a lot into it. This is now my 24th season managing a team and I'm not here to come second. I don't do it for the money, I'm here to win.

From another perspective you could almost say that Scott's the fifth child of my family. We took him into the team when he was very young, built him up into being a great rider and if you put those things together then it's normal that you feel personally disappointed and it takes some time before you recover from it.

Crash.net:
How did Scott handle it?

Michael Bartholemy:
I think the first moments in the clinic were some of the hardest. When the doctors told him that he'd need an operation and might need six to eight weeks out I think that was the worst moment for him.

Having said that I think that up to Japan [where Redding made an early return to try and keep his title hopes alive] he still believed in it, but then he had the crash and finally accepted that Espargaro would be world champion.

I think I've never seen him as down as that night after the Japanese race. As a rider all your life you dedicate to moving forwards and if you're lucky, once or twice you may get a championship and to have it so close and then have it snatched away from you is never easy.

On a positive note I think that as a rider it is a great lesson that you have to take and something that you have to accept and knowing Scott I know that he will accept it, but it will always be part of his life and stay with him until he's an old man.

Crash.net:
Has Scott's departure left a hole in the team?

Michael Bartholemy:
Sure, you know that the Marc VDS team was built around him. When Marc originally wanted to go motorcycle racing, I don't want to give the wrong impression but we went for two riders that other teams weren't interested in at the time; Scott and Mika. We've built ourselves up together over three years and to have two riders now in the top four is a something of an achievement.

Scott was certainly a big part of the team, but in a way he still is. So at the testing he's still often with Marc and I still see him as part of the family it's just that he's not riding our bikes.

Crash.net:
You were talking last season about a possible move into MotoGP with Scott, is that still an ambition for the team?

Michael Bartholemy:
The possibility was definitely there but it was, let's say, a political matter that when we wanted to go and when Marc [van der Straten, team owner] wanted to go we wouldn't have got the same support as other teams had and that was a bit frustrating for Marc. He felt that he invested so much into Moto2 and Moto3 and didn't see why he shouldn't get the same as other teams.

By the time we could have had that all opportunities to have a good bike were gone. We just weren't in the right place at the right time. We still see it as a possibility and if there is a chance in the future that Marc likes then the door is still open for us.

Crash.net:
When you say the same support, what do you mean?

Michael Bartholemy:
If you race in Moto3, Moto2 or MotoGP you get financial support from the organiser, Dorna. We never had the offer from them to get the same support as other teams and in a class like that it's important that you're at the same level as everybody else. We had the organisation and rider to do it, so it felt a bit strange that we should be left to struggle.

Crash.net:
How is testing going with your new rider Esteve Rabat?

Michael Bartholemy:
When Scott was leaving the team last season we knew we needed to get a good rider and now we have the third and fourth riders from last year's championship and the first and second have gone to MotoGP so I think we're OK.

We are still learning how he works and he still has to learn how we work, but it was already a good test last year and even more so at Valencia last week. We were often fastest with Tito [Rabat] so I think we can say that the test was successful.

He's a very grounded person, he trains a lot, rides a bike every day and prepares well. He's a bit more nervous than Scott in that he likes to have a 100% set up and likes to know exactly what's what before going into a season. He just gradually winds it up lap after lap after lap until he's the fastest guy out there.

Crash.net:
What are the qualities you look for in a rider when you sign them?

Michael Bartholemy:
It's often difficult to know how hard a rider works when they're not in your team, but for me I can watch riders for two or three years so will get a good idea of how they behave. I try to assess them and what they're missing and feel that if I can give them certain things that we can then win races.

I look for riders that our team can give the extra to so that they can win races, riders that I think we can complete.

Crash.net:
And how is Mika doing?

Michael Bartholemy:
Well, Mika was already bloody fast at Valencia. He's a person that needs a family atmosphere around him in order to feel confident and when he does he'll just give everything to make it happen.

He's now 31 and not the youngest in the paddock but definitely one of the two best riders I could have had. He's also a rider I truly trust in, so when it came to renewing his contract last year there was never a doubt that we would.

I'm pretty confident that we've got two riders who can always run at the front and after that we'll see.

Crash.net:
How do you assess Livio Loi's progress?

Michael Bartholemy:
That's a difficult one for me, with Livio it's a bit of a Belgian project. We're a Belgian team and he's a Belgian rider and there aren't many in racing.

Last year he often showed good potential but I also sometimes felt disappointed. It's not only him though because I feel that we also got things wrong as a team. Last year we felt we had a two year plan and there was no pressure in the first year, but perhaps that took motivation away.

During the winter I thought hard about where our weak points were and we then sat together with his family to discuss it with them. I put to them what I thought they were and that if that was accepted then we'd go for another season. We managed to find a good compromise.

I've already seen a different Livio at Valencia to the one I saw at the end of last year. There's been great progress in his riding style, his movement on the bike, his preparation and his mental strength. He's learnt a lot.

He was as disappointed as I was about last year and now I think it's good that we've given him another chance for next season.

Crash.net:
Coming back to your role as Scott Redding's manager, were you surprised at Scott's pace in the recent testing?

Michael Bartholemy:
For me I think that we were basically where we had to be compared to the other Honda riders. It has to be said though that the Honda was a bit down in comparison to the other open bikes but that is a fairly normal process. I spent a lot of years with the Kawasaki [Bartholemy previously ran the factory Kawasaki MotoGP team] for example and that wasn't the easiest bike to ride and getting a bike on the pace can't be done at the snap of the fingers.

I feel we need to be a little bit patient, get past the first three or four races and then see where we are. For me at the moment there are too many things that we're not 100% on. You can't understand what's really going on after three days in Sepang.

You also need to keep the rider patient because they all want results yesterday. He needs to be systematic like we're being.

Big issues for us at the moment are the braking system and the Magneti-Marelli ECU system. They've got so little experience and data for the electronics at the moment. The electronics on a MotoGP bike are like a huge book that you're in the process of writing, at the beginning it's empty and every time you go out you write some more in it, when the book's full you can be competitive.

We knew that we were going to be using Nissin brakes when we signed the contract and we accept that, but they [Gresini] are the only team in the whole paddock to use them. Because we're having so many problems with the brakes that's taking up all the time and hindering work on other aspects. With the other teams, when they pull the brake lever their bikes stop so they've got one less problem than we have.

We are also the only team to use Showa suspension but at the moment we aren't at the level with the other aspects of the bike to allow us to really work on that.

Crash.net:
Do you feel that there's a useful amount of speed still to find in the bike?

Michael Bartholemy:
Listen, the bike's got Honda behind it and I don't think they'll want to sit back and let Yamaha beat them every weekend. Honda, the team and Scott will all have a part in moving the bike forward.

For me the target is Nicky, he's a rider with a lot of experience, is riding the Honda and he would be our reference point.

Crash.net:
Was Scott disappointed by the pace?

Michael Bartholemy:
He wasn't shocked or anything but the second day of the three he was a little bit down. When I see him in the garage I know him well enough to know what he's thinking without him saying anything to me. I can see when he's a had a good day or a bad day and I can say the second day was a bad one.

Crash.net:
Is Scott's weight still a disadvantage?

Michael Bartholemy:
The disadvantage is now much smaller but a heavier guy will always have some disadvantage when compared to a let's say normal sized rider. But having said that a small rider like Pedrosa will also be disadvantaged.

Crash.net:
Are you committed to the Honda customer bike?

Michael Bartholemy:
We don't have a contract with Honda, we have a contract with the team so they would handle contractual matters with Honda. At the moment though we're completely committed to this bike, if we had the choice of a factory bike then I'd be the first one to raise my hand but at the moment we have what we have.

We also have the commitment from Honda and Gresini that we'll get a factory bike in the second year. Other manufacturers didn't make this promise and that's one of the big reasons we chose this route.

Crash.net:
So Scott's on a two year contract which includes him getting a factory bike in the second year?

Michael Bartholemy:
Yes.

Crash.net:
Did you have the choice of a Ducati, a Yamaha or a Honda?

Michael Bartholemy:
Yes we had all three choices. With Yamaha we had the possibility of having the bike Espargaro is riding for two years and with Honda we had the possibility of having a Factory bike in the second year. But we had to make the decision in June and I didn't know the Yamaha was going to be so good and now that I know how fast it is maybe I'd have to say 'F*ck, I made a mistake!'

Either way we've gone with Honda and we'll do everything to make that succeed.

Crash.net:
Do you think that Honda over sold their customer bike with optimistic testing times?

Michael Bartholemy:
The thing I know is that their test rider, Akiyoshi, was 0.3 slower than when on the Factory bike which is pretty true of what we're seeing now so I think they gave us exactly what they said they would.

Crash.net:
Has the Yamaha in Aleix Espargaro's hands shown us that an Open class bike can be competitive?

Michael Bartholemy:
Sure, he's just taken Crutchlow's bike, put a 24 litre tank on it, put some soft tyres on it and did some fast lap times. That's easy. It's a factory bike with a Forward Racing fairing and handlebars. Maybe Aleix is on Crutchlow's bike from last year and Colin's on Bradley's or the other way round, but one thing's for sure, they're using the two Tech 3 bikes from last year.

You've got to remember that everything on Espargaro's bike is fully developed, the gear box, the electronics, the brakes, you just get on and ride it but Scott has to start with a baby.

Crash.net:
Last time you said that you would tell us what the 'Want it' and 'Breathe' signals meant on Scott's pit board?

Michael Bartholemy:
When Scott came to us when he was young he would often override the bike. He would go into corners too deep and ride it a little brutally. 'Breathe' meant calm down, do one lap like a proper rider even if it's a bit slower and then start again.

'Want it' just meant make it happen. It was the team saying to him, we've spent the whole year working for this, go for it and make it happen for us.

Crash.net:
Thanks Michael.

Michael Bartholemy:
That's fine.
by Christian Tiburtius


Tagged as: redding

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bikenutter

February 19, 2014 12:05 PM

Agreed very interesting, I think even with the open Yamaha performance they made the right choice. Being on the factory Honda next year is a big deal. It's great seeing the Moto2 crowd gradually taking over MotoGP. Smith, Marquez, Espargaro(s), Bradl and Redding are the next gen MotoGP riders.



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