22 July 2014
MotoGP Q&A - Herve Poncharal (Tech 3)
"Competition is a bitch and this isn't the Red Cross so it's sometimes very difficult and very harsh. When you decide to become a competitor you have to accept the laws of competition" - Herve Poncharal, Tech 3.
An exclusive interview with Tech 3 team principal Herve Poncharal, conducted on Sunday evening at the German Grand Prix, which focuses on the team's 2015 rider line-up for MotoGP and Moto2.
Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith are currently seventh and eleventh respectively on the French team's Monster-backed Yamahas in the MotoGP standings with Marcel Schrotter and Ricky Cardus twelfth and 16th, using Tech 3's own chassis, in Moto2...
Obviously for 2015 it looks as though Pol Espargaro will stay with Tech 3 in MotoGP, but what are you expecting to happen with regards to the second seat?
Pol will stay with us, I'd say it's 99.9% certain. Yamaha are waiting on Jorge's final decision but it looks quite positive and I believe that he'll stay with Yamaha and Pol will stay with us.
For the second rider it's too early to know. We are halfway through the championship and many things are happening. What Bradley is doing... it is a shame because we can see that he has the speed. For whatever reason this weekend [Sachsenring] was a disaster because five crashes during one GP weekend is too much.
We understand why he crashed and I'm not blaming anybody but the fact that he doesn't know what will happen for him in the future means that he pushes and he made some mistakes.
This is a hot seat, it's a factory Yamaha M1, and there are a lot of young riders knocking on the door from Moto2 and Moto3. I don't know [what will happen] but we decided this morning in a meeting with Yamaha that we'll wait until the Czech Republic [August 15-17] to make a decision.
At the moment there are so many rumours and so much bullshit in the paddock and a lot of riders and their management telling me that they are free and then we find out that they have a two-year contract. We want to wait a bit and after the break we'll see what happens.
It's the same in Moto2 because I'm really happy with Ricky and Marcel because compared to last year they have been a big improvement. They've been team players and for sure finishing between seventh and twelfth every week is good in a class as competitive as Moto2 but I'd like more so we'll wait and see what will happen.
In Moto2, is Alex Marinelarena still in your plans?
This is a big question mark. We've been inviting Alex to Jerez and Barcelona to test and he didn't come. I know that he's ok because he's riding bicycles and he is training and I've talked to him on the phone and he can speak like a normal person so he is recovered, but for some reason he is maybe a bit depressed at the moment.
He was so happy to join us and it was a dream come true for him so maybe he sees it going away from him now. So we need to talk to him and his doctors because we heard that his doctor told him that he needs to wait before going back on a racing bike in case you hit your head again. So we will have to wait and see.
With Ricky and Marcel though you're happy with the progress made this year?
Yeah, I'm really happy because they are doing a good job. Marcel has done well but could maybe do better and Ricky when you think that he was out of a job is now doing an impressive job.
Are you looking at anyone from Moto3 to take to Moto2 next year?
Yes, but unfortunately we are in a world where people should have big balls and be ready to take a challenge and show the world what they can do. But as soon as you talk to anybody in the top four or five [in Moto3] they say that they will only work with a Kalex. I'm not going to buy a Kalex, that's absolutely sure.
I've always said that there are two people that impressed me in motorsport; Michael Schumacher and Valentino Rossi. Schumacher was in the winning team at Benetton and was winning everything but he said that he wanted to go to Ferrari because they hadn't won the title. Everyone said that he was crazy and that he was only going for the money and that it would be the end of his career, but we all know what happened at Ferrari. It was the most successful career ever.
The other is Valentino because at Repsol Honda he could have won titles but he left for Yamaha.
The year that he switched I was with Yamaha and there was only one podium that year for Yamaha, Alex Barros riding for us at Le Mans. The Factory Yamaha team with Biaggi and Checa didn't get a podium but Valentino said that he was going to Yamaha and that he was going to win. Everybody laughed saying that it was a piece of shit and that there was nothing to do there, but from the first race he won at Welkom and then won the title.
I'm not saying that I'm Yamaha or Ferrari but I'm pretty sure that Ricky's had his best result by far on our bike, Marcel has had his best result by far on our bike and I'm sure that our bike is competitive. I don't want to say that our bike is the best because at the moment the Kalex is winning and I respect them. But Suter have won races and a few months ago everyone said that it was impossible to win on the Suter and that they were finished.
I'm waiting for a fast Moto2 or Moto3 rider to come to me and say that they believe in my project and that they want to win. When they do that [win] I'll give them a MotoGP ride and that's the plan, but at the moment no one has told me that they'd do it.
Coming back to MotoGP, last year Yamaha told you that Pol would be joining Tech 3, are you under any pressure from them to place a rider on the second MotoGP bike for next year or will you make the decision?
No, my company is independent and I have the right to say whoever I want to ride and Yamaha will follow me.
There have been three cases, the first when they signed Lorenzo in 2008, Colin Edwards was to have one more year so they asked did I mind having Colin. I didn't mind so we gave him the last year of his Factory contract and then kept him on a Tech 3 contract after.
The second case was Ben Spies and he was given a two-year contract from Japan that if he won in WSBK, he'd have a second year either in WSBK or that he'd come to MotoGP. The Factory team already had Jorge and Vale so they asked me and I was more than welcome because Ben is such a great rider and he joined us with a Factory Yamaha contract.
The third example was Pol last year because at the time Yamaha didn't know what was going to happen with Jorge and Vale at the beginning of 2013. I was more than happy to have Pol, but for the second rider for next year it's 100% my decision because the Factory are happy with their riders. It's not 100% that Jorge will stay but it should be soon.
This is your fourth season working with Bradley, what do you see as his strengths and weaknesses?
His strength is that we took him from 125s, but without knowing anything about my project he joined us. In the first part of his Moto2 season he did incredibly well and had three podiums in a row and after Silverstone was third in the championship - he was behind only Stefan Bradl and Marc Marquez.
His strong point is that he is very aggressive and very fast and has a high motivation. He's a very good starter and fast on the first lap but for me his weak point is that, especially in Moto2, he wanted to be too involved with set-up and thinking that there was a magic setting and that he confused himself in year two.
In MotoGP I think that he has the speed to be a good MotoGP rider, and he is a good MotoGP rider, but unfortunately in competition you don't have time to wait and people don't give you ten years to demonstrate [your ability].
There are a lot of fast young riders that are dreaming to have the possibility to show their ability and Bradley has had that opportunity so now it's up to him to show it. We have still a few races before we make a decision.
Maybe his weak point is coping with pressure because we saw five crashes this weekend and it's because his head isn't here. But I can't tell him that his ride is safe for another year because I'm under pressure from the Factory and from sponsors to get results and this makes me very sad, because in four years we've built a relationship and he's part of the family.
But as I said before, competition is a bitch and this isn't the Red Cross so it's sometimes very difficult and very harsh and when you decide to become a competitor you have to accept the laws of competition.
Looking at who's available in the premier class and Moto2, who are you looking at?
If we ever replace Brad it will be with a young rider that's currently in Moto2 or Moto3.
When you look at those riders in Moto2 who stands out?
If I replace Bradley it will be with a very young rider.
So is a Moto3 rider more likely?
Why not? I think that a lot of people are too conservative, and maybe the Factory teams have to be conservative, but for the fourth Yamaha rider, why not? This is maybe why I want to wait to see what is happening and find a rider who fits into our team, because we're family orientated and a lot of people are lying and telling many teams that they are free. Then I found out that they are linked to a two-year contract or whatever. So we decided to wait for the Czech Republic and see what happens there.
If it was someone from Moto3, do you think is there a risk in making such a big step with only four MotoGP tests to get ready for the first round of 2015 in Qatar?
When you're good, you're good and nobody would expect the fourth rider to win races in his rookie year. So if he is a very good rider and is clever enough and has the help of the team with twelve days testing and no pressure he can start easy and there is nothing impossible.
Are you willing to say if it's a Jack Miller, Romano Fenati or Alex Rins that you're looking at?
No, it can really be any of them. Jack is the one that is talking the most, but he's not the only one.
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