The early months of 2019 have not only been a time of adaption for the Moto2 class, but for Joan Olive, the new team manager of Marc VDS’ grand prix operation, as well.

The former 125cc podium finisher had built up a great deal of experience as a rider coach for Aki Ajo’s Moto2 and Moto3 riders in previous years before taking on the role responsible for Marc VDS’ Moto2 push this year.

The first four rounds of the new Triumph-powered Moto2 era have seen riders Alex Marquez and Xavi Vierge suffer a reasonable amount of misfortune, but Olive insists the team still harbours hopes for the elder Spaniard to make a championship push.

Olive recently spoke to about his role for 2019, the changes within the team, and his hopes for Marquez and Vierge in the season ahead...
Can you tell us about your new role?

Joan Olive:
I’m the team manager of the team. The main job for me is during the winter to have everything organised to be ready when we started the season. This year we worked hard to get everything ready. The bikes, everything was new in Moto2. We have some new people also working in the team. The main thing of my job is to get the best from everyone, and to give the riders the best we can and to take out the best of the riders. I want to thank Marc van der Straten to give me this possibility in the team. Without his confidence we could not do this.
We heard what was going on behind the scenes in 2018 was a little chaotic. Was it your job to restore order to a degree?

Joan Olive:
I arrived fresh in this team. I don’t the exact details about 2018; I’m just focussed on 2019 and trying to do the best job with the people I have around. I have to say the staff that we have are amazing. We have very good atmosphere. One of the most important things for me with my experience is to have a very good atmosphere, because we spend many days, many hours together. For the rider it’s very important in a team to feel everyone is supporting each other. And not just for the rider; for the whole staff. If there is a good environment, it’s much easier to work. This was one of the first goals. We did it. We are a group of young people with a lot of enthusiasm to do it well.
We see new faces in the Marc VDS team, like experienced crew chief Gilles Bigot as Xavi Vierge’s crew chief. Were you responsible for recruiting the personnel?

Joan Olive:
We thought especially for Alex to have a team that changed the dynamic. He had been four years with the same staff and we thought it would be good for him to change the faces. But we didn’t want to lose all the and the knowledge of Naoya Kaneko that was working with him before. Now Naoya is still in the team; he’s watching over and supporting both riders and he has amazing experience and knowledge. In this we gained more. With Alex now [his crew-chief] is David Garcia. He was working with [Johann] Zarco in previous years when I was there [in Aki Ajo’s team] and he was Dani Pedrosa’s data guy last year. We know each other very well from the past years when we worked together.
Looking at Xavi’s side of the garage, he is working with Gilles Bigot, a crew chief with a great amount of experience.

Joan Olive:
This was a clear decision. He has a lot of experience nad knowledge about the Moto2 class. Also his data recorder has a lot of experience. For us it was a good combination. We have one young crew chief with Alex but with support from Naoya. On the other side we have a more experienced crew chief. We think it’s the perfect mix.
You spent many years with Aki’s team, one of the more professional teams in the paddock. Have you taken a lot from him and put that into practice for this role?

Joan Olive:
Of course from all the years you gain experience in everything. you see which things are good, work and you’d like to keep doing like this. I’m lucky I was a rider in GPs for ten years and I have this experience to help the riders in KTM. So I have experience in developing the bike and on the more technical side of things. But I also spent many years with Aki, winning and getting many good results. You take the positives from this and learn a lot.
How impressed are you with Kalex’s work over the winter?

Joan Olive:
It’s always amazing how such a small group of people can develop and make such a great job. If you look at them they are not so many people, but I feel it’s how the approach the job. They have a lot of passion. The last seven years showed how well it works. This year they had a new challenge, building a new bike and from the beginning the riders felt very good on the bike. We still need to finalise the settings for this bike, but all the teams, we are searching for the best combinations. Also the riders are still adapting to this new category.
What are your expectations for Alex this year?

Joan Olive:
The expectations for Alex is to try and fight for the championship. We are all working to give the best to him so he can do it. I feel he arrives at this point with a lot of experience. He is very young still. It’s a good moment for him. He started the season very well, always at the top, and we have been scoring points. I believe this championship will be one where you need to be constantly there. He needs to be patient in certain moments an attacks when he feels strong. For this you need a rider that has more experience, and one that is ready. Let’s see what happens. Obviously this is the target. We can’t forget that some other riders have more experience than him in Moto2. Marcel [Schrotter] started in 2012 for example. Luthi started much earlier. [Lorenzo] Baldassarri also. It will be a tough year. We can’t forget Alex is a world champion in Moto3.
Is there one thing Alex can improve to fight all the way and become a world champion?

Joan Olive:
Consistency in one thing in the past [that could be better]. We’ve been working a lot with him to make him understand that this is one of the keys that we need to have under control. If you see, he has the speed. He’s showed this already. But consistency was not that good in the past years. We’re working on it. So far we haven’t had many crashes. We’re working on it.
Looking at Xavi, the potential seems to be there. But he has lacked quite a bit of luck.

Joan Olive:
Exactly. For us he hasn’t been able to show his potential. He couldn’t match all the points to make it happen. For sure he has the potential to make it happen but he needs the experience to make it happen so he could take it all out. We hope to continue to work and I’m sure he will surprise some people at more than a few races.
Finally Joan, can you tell us how the emotion and excitement of experiencing a race as a team manager differs to your previous roles?

Joan Olive:
I felt it a lot this year. Of course I’ve always been nervous for my riders when I was with them. But this year I felt a lot the difference. The pressure on my side is a lot this year and you can feel it during the race when good results are coming. The feelings are more intense, so you enjoy it more. I’m suffering quite a lot!