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MotoGP stars talk WSBK team orders

“You have to respect the decision of the factory but also have a good relationship with your team-mate” – Pol Espargaro.
After last weekend's World Superbike title showdown, team orders were a hot topic of discussion as the MotoGP paddock gathered for the Valencia season finale.

Bad blood between reigning WSBK champion Tom Sykes and team-mate Loris Baz saw the Frenchman ignore a Kawasaki request to let Sykes into second place at the end of the opening race in Qatar.

Baz had previously yielded position to Sykes at Magny-Cours, when the rival Aprilia team also got into a mess with Marco Melandri allowing title contending team-mate Sylvain Guintoli ahead in race one, then disobeying the same instruction in race two.

Ultimately former MotoGP rider Guintoli won the title by six points from Sykes, two points more than were lost by 2015 MotoGP rookie Baz holding on to second in the opening race. The issue of whether such team orders should be used remains controversial, but the MotoGP riders questioned indicated they are a necessary evil.

Reigning double MotoGP champion Marc Marquez said: “I was watching that race at home on the sofa. It is difficult to say because some people agree with team orders and some don't.

“But in the end when it is one factory, behind one project, with one goal sometimes I think we need to have [them]. Or if they think we need [team orders], we need to respect that decision. It is so difficult. We are riders and if you can finish second, you don't want to finish third!

“But if some factory gives you all the support during two or three years, it is important to respect the decision of the factory. The factory invests so much money for one thing and then for just maybe a wrong decision they lose the championship.

"But you never know in the future I might be in that situation, so for that reason I won't say nothing!”

Seven time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi is strongly against team orders, but even the Italian acknowledged that they can be justified at the end of the championship.

“For me team orders are always very, very bad in general. But at the end of the championship they can be very important, can make the difference for a factory that spent a lot of money to try to win,” said Rossi. “In Superbike it was interesting because it happened in both teams, because Melandri didn't give the position to Guintoli then after Baz did the same with Sykes.

“It depends also very much on the relationship with the riders in the team and Baz and Sykes have a bad, bad relationship because Baz crashed with Sykes at Sepang. If Baz had to race with Kawasaki next year for sure he would give the position, but he is changing to MotoGP so it is difficult to control.”

Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo had been angry when Rossi, out of the 2010 MotoGP title fight due to injury, fought fiercely with him in Japan that season.

The Spaniard, who clinched the championship with three rounds remaining next time in Malaysia, still holds the view that team-mates should remember who they are paid by and insists he would help Rossi in such a scenario.

“My opinion is that you are a rider from a factory and this factory trusts in you, pays you, so the factory is the most important," Lorenzo said. "In the future if I am in a situation where I have to help my team-mate, for example if Valentino is fighting for the championship, I will help Valentino. So if you ask me what I would do in this [WSBK] situation, I would help my factory.”

Like Rossi, Moto2 champion Pol Espargaro feels the relationship between the riders is crucial.

“As Valentino said, it's really about the relationship between the two riders," said the Spaniard. "Normally you have to respect the decision of your team or factory because they spend a lot of money to try and win the championship. And they were really close to winning.

“I was in a similar situation in Moto2 and if you have a good team-mate and the team-mate gives you some help, it's really good. But the relationship is really important. You must demonstrate to your team-mate that you are a good guy. You have to respect the decision of the factory but also have a good relationship with your team-mate.”

LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl and Suzuki wild-card Randy de Puniet feel the key is to make any team orders completely clear before the race.

“It was a very tricky situation in this case and if something similar would happen to me I would definitely sit down before the race and have a proper meeting to analyse the situation,” Bradl said. “Because afterwards it's easy to say and during the race, we are riders, so sometimes we forget something… It's a difficult situation but if I would be in that case I think you have to respect the decision of the factory behind you.”

Baz's fellow Frenchman de Puniet added: “Nobody knows exactly if it was clear before the race or if it was just an expectation. If it was clear that Baz must stay behind Sykes, he made a mistake. After that nobody knows. I think the relationship between the riders has not been good since last year, so I think he [Baz] was not happy and is moving to MotoGP so has nothing to lose. But he may regret it in the future, especially if it was clear before the race.”

Turning to this weekend's Moto3 title showdown between Alex Marquez and Jack Miller, Rossi was asked if his VR46 Moto3 riders will be expected to help Miller.

“No, I don't think so. For sure Romano [Fenati] has the KTM, the same bike as Miller, and Marquez is the rival, because have the Honda. But nothing special. I mean I think Romano has to do his race. I hope he can fight with Miller and Marquez but no particular team order.”

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
De Puniet, Valencia MotoGP 2014
Crutchlow, Marquez, Pol Espargaro, Australian MotoGP 2016
Pol Espargaro, Australian MotoGP 2016
Pol Espargaro, Australian MotoGP 2016
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November 07, 2014 7:38 AM

I bet most riders are thinking that if they don't mind the consequences then screw the team. Not professional but it's not entirely their fault either. If the contracts were made so that they would mind, then maybe this mentality would be less likely to prevail.


November 06, 2014 8:58 PM
Last Edited 223 days ago

Kile, You're talking like someone who doesn't understand the scoring system. Points are not simply awarded for winning. No racing organization that I know of simply awards a championship based on the number of wins. If that were the case in MotoGP, the title fight would have been over after the 9th round this year and the rest of the season would have been incredibly boring.The best racer is the one who is the most consistent in virtually every race series in the world. My team of friends raced in an endurance championship. We finished on the podium in almost every race and only won one, yet we won the championship. If someone said: "Yeah, you won the championship, but you weren't the best." I'd have just laughed at them cause I was the one holding the championship trophy in my hand. You can say what you want about Guintoli, but he's the one holding the trophy and I guarantee you he doesn't care about you saying he isn't the best. At least give the guy the credit he deserves.

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