2016 hasn't always been straightforward for Michael Bartholemy's Marc VDS team, but the three rounds before the summer break demonstrated that there is very much light at the end of the tunnel.

Now in its second year in the MotoGP class, the Honda powered outfit expanded to two riders for the new season, after a largely frustrating campaign with Scott Redding in 2015. With former Moto2 champion Tito Rabat moving up from the intermediate category, and Jack Miller moving across from LCR Honda, 2016 promised a great deal.

Yet Miller's early season was disrupted by a broken leg suffered in a training accident, and Rabat faced similar difficulties to other Honda mounted riders Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow.

Early season results in the MotoGP class weren't helped by a further injury for Miller in Austin, and Rabat breaking a collarbone at Mugello. But by Barcelona the improvements were apparent. Miller scored his first top ten finish in the class, while Rabat performed well while still riding injured. And then we went to Assen...

Bartholemy spoke to Crash.net on the Friday of the German Grand Prix about the first eight races of the year, understanding and improving the 2016 Honda, and working with both his MotoGP riders.

On 2016

"From the MotoGP side I think that with this win you overcome your expectation because you never expect to win as a private team. But when you live in the racing world every day you can see some improvement, which the outside people sometimes not see because the outside people sometimes more look hard and can maybe give you some criticism.

"So I could see that for some time we were improving with both of them. We still have to improve. Our manufacturer has also to improve. It's not only our riders. the package was coming better for all of them. We are working a lot, not only on the track [but] to keep them motivated, to not fall into this hole that we had a little bit with [Scott] Redding last year. I think there is a lot of mental work also behind for this moment.

"I think that the things that the people were saying, like with Jack, it's difficult to control him. There were some people talking about the drinking, the party, and this. I must say today I think that for a private team I would say half season we have fulfilled our obligation. I think there was not one bad stop since he arrived in Marc VDS. I think that Tito was improving so I think we are satisfied with these results until today. Then there was the small cherry on top of this, which was the win at Assen."

Improving Honda's 2016 RC213V
While many of the 2016 Honda's flaws have been obscured by the brilliance of championship leader Marc M?rquez, early results showed the difficulties Miller and Rabat were facing with the machine.

Not only was Magneti Marelli's new electronics software proving troublesome, and hindering acceleration. The bike was largely designed to cater to an aggressive, late-braking style. With Michelin's new front tyre providing less warning that the Bridgestone front that went before, both riders struggled for front-end feel and fell victim to its razor-sharp limit.

Bartholemy believes the post-race test in Barcelona was a potential turning point, while understanding the methods of Miller's crew - that are new to team for '16 - has also taken some time.

"I think we speak about two issues. The first issue is the front feeling, which for him is still something that not 100% gives him confidence. At the Barcelona test we get a lot of tyres to test from Michelin. And I said, 'I don't want to test f**king tyres! I don't give a shit about tyres because you never make a tyre that is branded for Jack Miller.' I wanted to concentrate on our problem and that is the front.

"Actually after two hours in Barcelona I stopped completely the normal test plan and said to the Ohlins guy and the HRC guy, 'Fix the f**king front, because this is what we need!' I think we have made improvement since this moment. We changed for example the type of suspension, the front suspension to help him.

"So I think that this is something that we are concentrating on a lot. I don't think that the Repsol people have a better solution than us. I just think that these riders with their experience, they have sometimes a little bit more confidence than we have for this moment. And this confidence we have to build up. This takes some time.

"The electronics thing is complicated. Even for a person like me that is long time in racing because you depend on many people. You depend on the new system that is coming. You depend on the people that you hire. I think that the MotoGP paddock is going a little bit in this way of these special guys that make these electronics. Sometimes when they tell you stories you think, 'Is this really still something to do with riding a motorcycle?'

"As it is our first year with Jack I must say that for the moment I have seen more difficulties to understand his side sometimes, for example the side with Rabat. Even if Rabat wasn't riding the bike but the person is the same last year to this year. So even sometimes it's complicated for me. I ask him the simple way for a normal human, 'What are you doing?' Because we don't understand if you tell us only on the f**king computer. You need to explain to us in a human way what actually the computer is doing.

"This is something that we need to find out. We need to find that the feeling of Jack is translated into an electronic program. This is sometimes not so easy when you work the first year together. Even these people who are working last year together but the bike and everything is very, very different to last year."

On Jack Miller's upward trajectory
Having come under fire for his preparation during his debut season in the premier class, Miller was almost unrecognisable when he arrived to test at Phillip Island in February. His slim face and slender frame showed just how seriously he had taken his off-season training programme.

Riding for much of 2016 with an injured right leg, Miller felt his injury was still around 15 percent from full fitness in July. Despite that, the 21-year old showed flashes of speed in Argentina and Mugello, before posting three top ten results before the summer break, including, of course, that win at Assen.

Bartholemy believes the change in Miller for 2016 has been profound. "Compared to this year Jack is a 100 percent different person from last year," he said. "On the Saturday after Assen I called him at ten o'clock in the morning. I was in the forest with the dogs and I give him a call. He was also out of breath. I said, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I'm running this morning.' This is what I want to have.

"I had already one similar rider like him, which is Redding, coming out from a little bit of a wild life, a wild environment, and they are always on the edge. When they go over you have to [mimes telling off]. But don't clap their face and hurt them. In the end they are not children. They're young people.

"I have four children. I have children the same age of my riders. I live the same daily. You need to guide them all the time in the best direction without being too hard. If you are too hard they will just make it on purpose against you. So you need to find this middle way how these people react or act. I think for this moment we found a good compromise.

"Even if it's going over the limit to say, hey! But also if it is good, they need also to know. This is the balance that you have to find. But it is a pleasure to work with him. I think from the outside there's always this impression of this rough Australian guy, but he's actually a very nice, well-educated kid and it's a pleasure to work with him."

'He achieved results because he is a hard worker'
The sole rookie in the 2016 field, Rabat has faced a baptism of fire in the premier class. The 2014 Moto2 world champion has enjoyed just one top-ten finish to date, but Bartholemy feels the Spaniard needs to focus on himself to improve his current standing in the championship.

"The situation for me with Tito is he is a guy that actually is somebody that many times in his life he's alone. He's a person that wants to make everything alone. Honestly I think sometimes that he hates people [laughs]! I think that he has a quite good relationship with me. We can talk about everything. Sometimes we not only talk about motorcycle racing or motorcycles, we talk about many things. I think Tito is a person that needs more time than other people. I think he achieved the result because he is a hard worker. He don't achieve the result because he's an unbelievable talent.

"But he's also a person that needs somebody he can trust. If he trusts somebody he can sometimes do unbelievable things. This is a little bit distinct what I try to bring back to him. I told him that Barcelona actually was not a bad race. It was a race that I see that he used all the maps to save the tyre. So it means that he was completely focused on this Barcelona race, and he make not a bad result, considering his position. In Assen he was seventh position before he crashed. He finished 11th. Not so bad.

"So now a day like today [Friday at the Sachsenring], which is a difficult day in a difficult track, I said to him, 'I see you today waiting, looking for other riders. You don't need this. You are Tito Rabat. You have always made everything alone. You need to make it alone! And I want to see this. I want to see the improvement in you. I don't want to see you waiting for a Yamaha or a Ducati because you have a Honda. That is a completely different riding style. It's different braking, it's different acceleration. It's nothing to do with our bike. So, you need to improve yourself. And not improve because you think that you can improve than somebody else. That does not happen.'

"This is something that is important to know with him that you give him this power that he feels like, 'I am somebody. I am actually the guy and I am in MotoGP!' Sometimes I say to him, 'Put a f**king smile on your face! Do you want to go back to Moto 2?' I ask him before re-signing [Alex] M?rquez, 'Do you want to go back?' And he said to me, 'I will never, ever go back.' [So I replied] 'Shut up and make your fucking job! It is like this. Don't start to complain about wheelying or something like this, because this is MotoGP. This is for everybody the same.

"Next year when you come back to Sachsenring from 100 problems, maybe 50 gone, because you have no decision with the thing. But still you will have 50 and if you want to go faster than what you are doing this year that will be another problem. So you need to work on yourself.'

To read the full interview with Michael Bartholemy click here



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