On November 18, in Valencia, Tech3 will take part in its final MotoGP race with Yamaha machinery, ending a 20-year relationship between the French team and Japanese manufacturer.

Two days later, Tech3 will start a new association with KTM, while the Sepang International Circuit takes over as Yamaha's satellite team.

"I've been extremely happy for 20 years with Yamaha," said team boss Herve Poncharal. "This is completely honest from me. I've said it before and I'll say it again; it's been the best years of my professional life.

"I've met incredibly good people. We've been world champion with OJ [Olivier Jacque]. We did all that we've done in the MotoGP class and - through Yamaha - had the possibility to work with riders like Ben Spies, Colin Edwards… It was great.

"And even though we don't have the latest spec bike, look at what Johann has been doing. So I would be stupid to complain and you can't say we don't have good support.

"But I have had an offer [from KTM] that was really exciting, because I like the risk, the challenge! This is a new adventure for me.

"But that doesn't mean I'm unhappy with Yamaha and I'm happy for the guys who will be the next Yamaha supported team, because you can see the level of this bike."

Satellite teams, factory bikes

If there was an area of potential friction between Tech3 and Yamaha, it was over Yamaha's refusal to match Honda and Ducati by giving one latest spec machine to a deserving satellite rider.

Tech3 tried, but it simply wasn't an option. However Yamaha's stance could change under the terms of its new agreement with SIC, although - like the riders - that is still to be confirmed.

"If it [factory M1s at a satellite team] is happening with the new entry, I'm happy for them. I'm not bitter," Poncharal said.

"We've been trying with a lot of riders - Colin Edwards, Ben Spies, Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow, Johann Zarco… and it was always, 'no way'. Because Yamaha's policy is a factory team with the latest [bikes] and a satellite team with the previous year's bikes.

"I accepted it. I did try and some riders like Ben, Dovi and Cal also pushed through the own management but it was always [no]. Even Pol Espargaro, who was contracted to the factory."

MotoGP bikes - what's the difference?

'Everything is coming into place'

Whether the new SIC team get 2019 Yamahas remains to be seen, but either way the number of satellite teams running the latest MotoGP machinery will at least double next season.

Tech3 will be the only independent team with two such entries, via its new deal with KTM, while Pramac (Jack Miller) and LCR (Cal Crutchlow) will continue to get one 2019 machine from Ducati and Honda respectively.

The trend illustrates how the balance of power has shifted more towards the satellite teams, due to a combination of 'equalising' technical rules and a realisation by the factories that having a satellite team contributes to their success.

In the past, manufacturers often gave the impression that leasing (for a fee of several million euros each) even year-old machines was an altruistic act.

"It was like having a satellite operation was a weight, but now things look like they are changing," said Poncharal, who is also President of the teams' association IRTA. "Maybe they understand, 'having a satellite operation is helping us in this, this, this and this'.

"Suzuki is trying - maybe not for next year - but they clearly want [a satellite team]. They have decided in 2019 or 2020 they will have a satellite operation. Even Aprilia are thinking we should have it. KTM has decided. Ducati have plenty. HRC have, Yamaha will have.

"With four bikes you can prepare for the future by picking up some young riders, look at their level and also if they are fast - as Zarco and Folger were last year - you can use also their data, their feedback, their comments, because four comments is better than two. You learn more and you deliver quicker. It's in the interest of everyone.

"So everything is slowly coming into place and it's a bit like what we imagined would happen. And I think more and more each manufacturer understands the need to have an 'official' satellite operation, using the latest bikes."

'A bit like we imagined'

When Poncharal says 'it's a bit like we imagined', he's referring to a set of rule changes stretching back over ten years that - viewed in isolation - were often derided.

Dorna's first move on the MotoGP chess board was a single tyre supplier in 2009, but it's most controversial was the introduction of 'CRT' (Claiming Rule Team) machines in 2012.

Triggered by plummeting grid numbers following the financial crisis and a lack of effective solutions from the manufacturers - just twelve prototypes remained on the grid, two factory and two satellite from Honda, Yamaha and Ducati - the CRT initiative allowed superbike-powered machines to be run by independent teams.

That restored grid numbers to 21 entries, meeting the immediate target of enough bikes to run a world championship.

But to give the CRTs a chance of being within sight of the factory prototypes, a series of technical concessions were introduced for the first time in grand prix. These gave the CRTs more fuel and engine changes. A softer tyre would follow in 2013.

While CRT is long forgotten, technical concessions continue and are credited with helping foster close racing throughout the grid and ensuring no serious project falls hopelessly behind.

In other words, now results-based and issued by brand, the current concessions (more private testing, engine changes and engine development) indirectly help compensate for the difference in budgets between the various manufacturers.

The second year of CRT (2013) saw Dorna hire Magneti-Marelli to create a standard ECU system, aimed at providing the CRT bikes with a high-level electronics system, to reduce the performance gap to the factory prototypes.

It was also the first step towards a single ECU system for all competitors, which became a reality from 2016. By then, CRT and its 'Open class' successor (2014-2015) had done their job and disappeared.

So it was CRT that introduced both technical concessions and the start of a single ECU for the MotoGP class. But having two different groups of machines, Factory-Satellite and CRT/Open, racing within one championship was far from ideal.

The 'checkmate' occurred in 2014, when Ducati attempted to switch their official team from Factory-to-Open class rules. It was the moment the MotoGP organisers had been waiting for.

"Eventually we hope the factories will have their hand forced into saying, 'okay, we'll have to go with [Open] rules because it's the most competitive'," commented Race Director Mike Webb, one week before Ducati's Open announcement.

Closely involved in supplying Open bikes to satellite teams, Ducati knew a tipping point had been reached in terms of which set of rules was more competitive. Eligibility for the Open class simply depended on use of the standard ECU system, which Ducati could help develop anyway.

Under the new leadership of Gigi Dall’Igna, Ducati also had little to lose. The factory had been winless since 2010, with every MotoGP victory from 2011-2014 shared between Honda and Yamaha.

But the Japanese factories were left disgruntled at what they saw as an abuse of the 'privateer' spirit of the Open class rules and also feared a Ducati advantage. Ultimately, they had been outmanoeuvred by not insisting on replacement wording to deter a Factory-to-Open move when the 'claiming rule' was dropped and Open class created at the end of 2013.

The various parties thrashed out a compromise that saw an interim set of 'Factory 2' rules (Factory with results-based Concessions) - which would apply to Ducati, then later Suzuki and Aprilia, for 2014-2015 - leading up to the introduction of 'unified' ECU software for all in 2016.

Webb confirmed that having the full MotoGP grid racing under the same Open-based technical rules had always been the final target, but lamented it had taken so long:

"It has been incremental. We've had a lot of interim years, where we are trying to get a final rule change done and ideally it should have been done at once in 2012 [when CRT was created]. It is not until [the single ECU in 2016] that we can get the whole job done."

The 2016 season began with a grid of 21 full prototypes from Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, Aprilia and ended with the MotoGP debut of KTM.

The season - which also saw Michelin replacing Bridgestone as tyre supplier - produced the first MotoGP victories for satellite riders since 2006, by Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow and a record nine different race winners from four manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki).

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Was Poncharal ever worried for MotoGP during the CRT period?

The best race result by a CRT rider was eighth place - achieved five times by Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), plus once for Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) and Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter).

Espargaro also led the opening laps of the wet Valencia 2012 race and the best of the CRTs could generally hope to challenge the back of the Factory grid. However, in the first year at least, the slowest CRT machines were lacking 35km/h in top speed.

Was Poncharal ever worried for MotoGP during the CRT period?

"It sounds pretentious to say 'no' now, because you are always cleverer afterwards. But… 'no'!" Poncharal smiled.

"We knew we had to prod the factories. Because we didn't have enough bikes on the grid. We had to do something. In order to try to stimulate them into, 'help us to have a healthy, competitive grid'.

"Everybody was laughing at CRT, 'this is really bad, this is downgrading the GP level'. But CRT was not made to last. It was made to try to give us the possibility for something better in the future.

"That was the vision behind the whole thing. In the beginning you have no support from factories, so you have to invent or find something that is going to help you reach your final goal. It's a process."

The best result for the more potent, Open class bikes that replaced CRT - most of which were provided by Ducati, Honda, Yamaha and Aprilia - was second place at Aragon in 2014, again by Aleix Espargaro (Forward Yamaha). The Spaniard also took a pole position at Assen that year, helped by the softer rear tyre.

'One goal. One vision'

The driving force behind the 'process' Poncharal refers to was Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.

"It was Carmelo's vision, shared and supported by all at Dorna and IRTA," Poncharal said. "What I like with Carmelo is, like Alpinestars, he has 'one goal, one vision'. He has a vision and he is always sharing and consulting with everyone. He doesn’t like to behave like 'I'm the boss'. I think we are extremely lucky to have Carmelo running the championship.

"And Carmelo always said, 'my real allies are the independent teams'. Because for the independent teams, 100% of our business is racing. If we are not racing anymore, we don't have a job. So we need to be here.

"Factories, as we've seen, can come and go. So Carmelo said, 'my legs are the independent teams and I want to help them have the possibility to thrive, not having to beg or do dodgy deals to keep racing'. He's been always like that and he's helped us a lot.

"So we changed some important rules. First, the tyres. That was under a lot of criticism and I understand why, because when you like sport, you like competition. Then we went to a single ECU, and again there was a lot of polemic.

"But in the end we said, 'if we can have the same tyres and ECU, which are maybe the most important technical factors for performance, we might attract back some factories that have left - which happened with Suzuki and Aprilia - and we might attract some new factories that have never been here - which has happened with KTM.

"So it worked. Now we have six manufacturers."

Even the manufacturers that resisted a single ECU for so long, later conceded it had been a good move.

While the quality of satellite equipment is also now on the rise, the equal distribution of such machinery per factory remains an unfulfilled goal.

"We always said the ideal situation - it won't happen overnight - would be six manufacturers and each of them with a factory team and a satellite operation. This is what we want."

With Marc VDS set to depart, next year's grid will comprise 6 Ducatis, 4 Hondas, 4 Yamahas, 4 KTMs, 2 Suzukis and 2 Aprilias.

The future... MotoE

Having revamped MotoGP (from 500cc), Moto2 (250cc) and Moto3 (125cc) a new category will join the grand prix roster in 2019; the electric MotoE series.

Each independent MotoGP team will run two MotoE bikes, plus several teams from the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

"The series will be run a bit like the Rookies Cup," Poncharal said. "Dorna will transport all the bikes etc."

Poncharal hopes the electric machines can attract sponsors that have previously steered clear of motor sport.

"You can either give more visibility to your current sponsors by being on both four-stroke bikes and electric bikes or find new ones," he said.

"When you look for budget you very often find people telling you - there is always an excuse - 'You've come too late'. Then the following year, 'You've come too early'. Or, 'speed and CO2 emissions are not popular, if you were green we could do something'.

"So now we can tell these guys, 'I'm green!'

While guest riders from grand prix history have been doing demo laps on the MotoE bike at each event this year, no team has yet announced a 2019 MotoE rider.

"It’s difficult because you can't ask a young rider, who is in the process of evolution, to jump on this bike as its only five rounds. And I don’t think there will be a lot of track time, maybe one free practice, one qualifying and the race," Poncharal said.

"Also I spoke with Loris [Capirossi] and he told me, 'this is not behaving like a Moto2 or Moto3 bike, because the bike is doing more what it wants. If you have a crazy guy you might have a big pile-up at turn one.

"So maybe it should be more for riders with experience, who have most of their career behind them than in front.

"Also I think year one will be about learning what we can do with these bikes. They have almost doubled the power, so things are progressing quickly."

Hafizh Syahrin will remain at Tech3 for the team's 2019 KTM move, being joined by rookie Miguel Oliveira. The teams Moto2 riders, like MotoE, are still to be decided.