Michael Bartholemy, team boss of Marc VDS’ racing operations, has admitted he is talking to another manufacturer other than Honda about supplying machinery for his MotoGP outfit in 2019.

The satellite squad signed a one-year extension with Honda to supply two Honda RC213Vs last August. However, compared to previous years, current riders Franco Morbidelli and Thomas Luthi only have ’17 spec machines. Bartholemy is assessing his options for 2019.

Suzuki has specifically expressed a desire to expand its presence on the MotoGP grid, while Yamaha is on the lookout for a satellite team after Tech 3’s shock switch to KTM.

Bartholemy has stated his principle aims are to secure a long-term deal with a factory that would continue for three years (until 2021), as well as receiving support from that factory.

“The factory support is the most important,” he said. “There needs to be the support. Even if it is not the latest bike, but you have factory people that support your satellite programme - this is for me one of the key points.”

Furthermore he hinted at an interest in taking over the satellite Yamaha machinery from Tech 3. "We have to see who can supply to us the best package for our structure [which] will be always like a ‘rookie rider’ structure," he said. As Johann Zarco, Jonas Folger and, more recently, Hafizh Syahrin have proved, the Yamaha M1 is probably the most manageable MotoGP machine for a rider that is new to the class.

Crash.net spoke to Bartholemy at the recent MotoGP test in Qatar to seek clarification on the team’s plans for 2019.

Crash.net:
Suzuki has made no secret of its desires to expand its presence on the MotoGP grid. It appears likely Yamaha will continue to field four bikes too. Is Marc VDS considering its options in terms of manufacturers for next season?

Michael Bartholemy:
Well the question is correct. In my general life I’m always trying to be a bit earlier than others. For sure Hervé [Poncharal – Tech 3 team boss] put the measurement very high - fair play to him. I think that his future has a clear line for this moment. Our situation is very easy. When Honda offered us the bike from the year before, we decided to make only a one-year contract to see a little bit… I think when I decided for one year, it wasn’t that I said, ‘OK, you offer me the old bike and I’ll make a one-year contract.

Also when I was signing I knew Pramac was signing for two years [with Ducati]. Lucio [Cecchinello – team boss of LCR Honda] is tied to Honda for two years. I think to be a little bit open is not so bad. Now the situation is that we are talking to Honda for our future. We are talking to other manufacturer for our future. I hope that I will be in position number two behind Hervé to decide what we will do for ’19, ’20 and ’21.

What’s important for us, we would like to go again for a long-term contract, like we had between ’15 and ’17. It’s important for us to sign a contract with us for over three years and then we have to see who can supply to us the best package for our structure.

Our structure will be always like a ‘rookie rider’ structure. We have a very good programme in Moto2 and the philosophy of Marc, Estrella and many of our partners is to bring our riders up from the smaller categories to MotoGP, which we have done twice; once with Frankie [Morbidelli] and the other with Tito [Rabat]. Just checking what would be the best alternative or which manufacturer could offer us the best situation until the end of 2021.

Crash.net:
Do you expect this to be finalised soon?

Michael Bartholemy:
Let’s say my personal target was even before this announcement from Hervé, to be before the end of April. This was my personal feeling. I know a little bit the days of discussion. Once you can fix a package, it usually takes a month because you have a contract in place and there is always this – these office people that control us a little bit. Then I think a good target should be Argentina, Texas, to really know what we will do for our future.

Crash.net:
You mentioned wanting a long-term deal. Are there other factors that are key in your decision?

Michael Bartholemy:
If the deal is clear, the deal is clear. I’m quite an easy person with this. I am never a person to come back on what we have agreed. Sometimes, also for the riders or their mind, or their managers, or people that are around, this is important. For me, when I do something I live with it. I’m quite straight with the things that I do. But for me, the factory support is the most important. There needs to be the support. Even if it is not the latest bike, but you have factory people that support your satellite programme. This is for me one of the key points. Key points for me are long-term contracts, a support in the garage from the factory that we can take the best performance out of the package we have.

Crash.net:
Franco is contracted to Marc VDS for 2018 and ’19?

Michael Bartholemy:
Yes, he has a contract for 2018 and ’19 and an option for ’20.

Crash.net:
So he’ll be part of whatever move comes next?

Michael Bartholemy:
OK, in this moment we have a Honda contract. If we go with Honda everything is like it is in place now. If there is another manufacturer, sure, we need to inform of this. Let’s see what Honda is saying. Now Honda is coming more open since some weeks. They talk to us so that is also nice. We are in the fourth year with them. We also know how it is running. There are also many positive points. It’s like if you know somebody, they can help you. Also they know what are the weak points and the plus points. It is also up to them to move, to say something. We were clear with them that we want to have an answer as soon as possible. We have to see what could be the answer.

Crash.net:
This year you’ll be running two ’17 bikes for your riders. In previous years you had the latest model. Is this a big disadvantage?

Michael Bartholemy:
I think there are some disadvantages. Normally, a new bike should be a little better. How much it is better we don’t know. Before it was an open game. A disadvantage is that we are not any more sharing data like we had before because the bikes were completely identical. We had data from Cal, from Marc, from Dani. That made the life easier sometimes when you had rookie riders.

But the advantage also is that we know this bike. We didn’t have to test any parts this year. We can concentrate on riding. I know with Jack last year, he had a lot of stuff to try in the winter time. Sometimes this can make your life difficult. This is a point that is completely gone. You are in between these two. You have an old bike; but from the other side you are also a little more quiet in the winter time.

It would be nice to have an actual [current] bike. It’s always nice also for the head. It would be nice to have a bit more information from the other riders that are using this bike, but when one person in Honda made that decision last year that we could not have the new bike, we knew it. We knew it when we signed the contract in August and we have to accept the situation we are now in. We have to get the best out of it. In the end, it’s the world champion’s bike. It’s the bike Marquez rode in Valencia. We have all the data from him. We have all the package. We have to make the best out of it.

 

 

 

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