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MotoGP Qatar: Poncharal: 'Smith still has 2017 Tech 3 chance!'

Herve Poncharal says Bradley Smith hasn't been ruled out of staying at Tech 3 in MotoGP next season.
Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal insists that Bradley Smith still has a chance of remaining at the team in MotoGP 2017.

On Wednesday, Smith declared he was 'almost certain' to leave, due to Yamaha seeking new young stars to develop for the future.

“It's a bizarre situation to be in, but something I've known since February. Herve sat me down and explained it to me in a meeting. It's good that he was straight up and honest and gave me plenty of time to look at other options,” Smith said.

“It's a bit frustrating from my point of view, but I can also understand Tech 3 and Herve's position and also Yamaha's in terms of looking at the future.

“Their [factory] riders look to be going on [beyond this season], especially even Valentino. They have to be ready for when those guys decide to retire, so they have the young guys coming through.”

However, Poncharal has given an alternative version of their February conversation.

The Frenchman said that while he emphasised to Smith how important this season will be - given the Englishman's clear ambitions to become a factory rider next year and Tech 3's role to develop young talent for Yamaha - he had only warned there 'might' not be a seat for him.

Poncharal insists nothing has yet been decided for Smith or team-mate Pol Espargaro, what happens will depend largely on results and that no other riders have already been signed for 2017.

So which is it?

Most in the paddock believe one of the Tech 3 riders will depart at the end of this season, due to pressure from Yamaha to prepare a new star ready to step up in place of Rossi or Lorenzo in 2019 (assuming both sign new two-year deals this season). That would explain the 'warning' given to Smith.

But since Tech 3 also needs results to keep it's own sponsors happy, they will be eager to retain an experienced, high-performing rider, who could also act as a good benchmark for a rookie team-mate in 2017. Hence Herve's emphasis on results.

While Smith is contracted to Tech 3, Espargaro's deal is directly with Yamaha. That may suggest that Smith's position is more precarious, but others point out that Espargaro is more expensive and certainly has more pressure to raise his game after a poor 2015.

Smith, a career-best sixth in the world championship last year, is starting his fourth MotoGP season at Tech 3 and Espargaro his third.

Tagged as: Tech 3 , Smith , Poncharal

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March 17, 2016 3:05 PM

I understand people's reservations on Bradley. I have been something of a fan since Bradley raced for Repsol Honda alongside Tito Rabat, but even I understand what's happening here. He's not the next Marquez, so Yamaha want to look to the next new guy. The problem Yamaha have is that NO ONE is the next Marc Marquez. He's a once or twice in a generation talent, like Rossi or Lorenzo. We've had what, four or five guys that good in 16 or 17 years since the pre-Rossi era of Doohan & Criville? Moto2 has produced six champions, but Bradley has proven better than Elias, Bradl and Pol on a MotoGP bike. Is Zarco, Alex Marquez or Kent going to be any better than Smith? I doubt it. Maybe Rins would be a decent shout but that's only one rider.

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