If Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal had to decide his 2016 MotoGP rider-up line 'right now' he'd keep both Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro.
Smith is sixth and the top satellite rider in the world championship standings, with Espargaro regaining form after a tough start to his second season.
“If you asked me three months ago I would have said it is almost impossible to retain the same riders because we are in a world of sport, but also in a world of - not show business - but we are here to entertain, to create some buzz, to create some media attention,” Poncharal told Crash.net
last time out at Assen.
“And if you keep Bradley for four years, Pol for three years, especially when you know that the factory Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki teams will not change, for you guys and the fans it is a bit boring. So I would have told you 'no way'.
“Today I'm telling you if I had to decide now, just prior to Assen, I would keep the two same riders. Bradley is improving every race and I'm sure Pol will be strong in the near future. If I can I would like to keep the two of them.”
Tech 3, Yamaha's only satellite team, has a long history of giving riders their first chance in MotoGP.
Since joining the premier-class with its conquering 250cc riders Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano in 2001, others to have ridden their first MotoGP season with Tech 3 include Toni Elias, Sylvain Guintoli, James Toseland, Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Smith and Espargaro.
But casting his eye towards the front of the present Moto2 field, Poncharal stated that while the top three all deserve to step-up to the premier-class, Smith and Espargaro have the upper hand in terms of age and experience.
“Clearly the top three guys at the moment - Tito Rabat, Sam Lowes and Johann Zarco - have the profile to move up to the MotoGP class,” Poncharal said. “I think these three guys are more than qualified to move to the MotoGP class.
[“But] as I told you before, this is completely honest, if I had to decide now I'd keep my two guys because any of these three names - for sure they will be fast on a MotoGP bike, but there would be some time to adapt.
“Our guys are the same age as them, or a little younger and they already have the experience. I want and need guys that can deliver now. Not in two or three years. At the moment everything seems like it is going in the direction of keeping the same two riders.
“I really believe if I can keep the same two guys, they still have room for improvement, but they already have a very strong level. So why change? Bradley is improving every race and I'm sure Pol will be strong in the near future. If I can I would like to keep the two of them.”
As a Factory contracted rider Espargaro's future will largely be decided by Yamaha, with Smith's contract a Tech 3 decision.
In terms of a timeframe, Poncharal declared: “There are two grand prix races until the summer break and they have three races before Indy - Assen, Sachsenring plus the Suzuka 8 Hours. So I've got a feeling those three races are going to be very important in order to prepare the futures of our two riders. I don't think there will be any decision before Indy or Brno.”
While Tech 3 is enjoying a strong MotoGP season, highlighted by holding third in the teams' championship after Mugello, its Moto2 project is enduring a hard time in the Kalex-dominated class.
The Tech 3 chassis has scored 19 points after eight rounds, compared with 41 points at this stage last season.
“Every Sunday night - Saturday at Assen - I have quite a positive feeling about MotoGP and I'm not happy with the Moto2,” said Poncharal. “Okay MotoGP is so much bigger and more important in terms of the future of our team, but I do care about the Moto2 project because the guys involved are nice guys. They work very hard and this is our baby. So of course we have our pride... it hurts.
“What should we do? Buy a Kalex? That would be a failure and what does it bring? Speed Up managed to keep on going - modified their bike - and now Sam is showing that bike can compete at the front and win. But he is the only one doing that on a Speed Up. So if Sam wasn't with Speed Up a lot of people would still rate it as 'rubbish'.
“I'm very much impressed by Sam because last year he had a difficult year, especially the last part of the championship and instead of saying 'one more year with this piece of…' he kept on pushing and from the first winter test we could see 'wow'. This is a champion's attitude, so Sam is doing really well and showing that there is a life even without a Kalex in Moto2. But he's the only one, so for that I have a lot of respect for the guy.”
to read the full interview with Herve Poncharal...