sat down with Marc VDS team boss Michael Bartholemy on Friday evening at the Sachsenring to talk about the fortunes of Jack Miller and Tito Rabat, maintaining their motivation through a difficult start, and improving Honda's 2016 RC213V...
Considering the season your team had before Assen, with Franco Morbidelli on the Moto2 podium and Jack winning there, was that as an emotional day as you have experienced in your time here?

Michael Bartholemy:
It's a difficult question but for sure I must say it was a big moment, also because if things are not going so well it is normal that people start to ask or doubt or criticise a little bit. But I think that I'm a person that basically always tries to stick to my decision and also defend my decision. I think that is my job as well.

It was a quite special day. In the moment when the MotoGP race was finished and you know that you have also made a podium in Moto2 that everyone was waiting for, and Alex finished the race after a long time in a top ten position. I was not completely wrong with what I decided or choose in the last year.

A decision like this [about riders] is not done fifteen days before the race. It is done a long time before. I was always a person that believed a lot in Jack Miller even some years ago. It was not only now for the MotoGP project. I think that day we showed to the world what actually we wanted to do already in 2014 was paying off.
What would your assessment be of the season to date, now that we are almost halfway through 2016?

Michael Bartholemy:
I think that besides the result of Assen, my strategy was in Moto2 to stick with two young riders, even if I had possibilities with other riders that were maybe rated higher. That's what I have chosen. I always said that if I could be in the top five in the Moto2 championship in the middle of the season, or finish in the top five with the package I have now, I would be a happy man. But I think today we are eight points behind position five on the list, so maybe with a good race here we could be there.

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 from the outside people sometimes don't see and maybe give you some criticism. So I could see that for some time we were improving with both Jack and Tito.

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. There is a lot of mental work also.

I think that the things that people were saying, like with Jack, that it's difficult to control him, things like this. 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 after half a season we have fulfilled our obligation. I think there was not one bad stop since he arrived in Marc VDS.

I also think that Tito was improving, so we are satisfied with these results up until now. Then there was the small cherry on top of this, which was the win at Assen.
You said that you had to try and keep the guys motivated to avoid falling into a black hole. How did you do that and what did that involve?

Michael Bartholemy:
First of all, I was always a person that spends a lot of time with my riders. When we arrive at the track we talk. [I ask] what is going on? What is the situation? I think that our riders are always 100% involved in any decision, in the bad times and in the good times.

For example last year, I think that we lost the [Moto2] championship because my decision was to stay with our suspension manufacturer [Ohlins]. This year I must say the decision was not a bad decision. This manufacturer started winning again. But I think that you have to share moments like this.

This I put on my side because I have made this decision. Like sometimes we must say, 'OK, you have not really handled the situation like you should handle it. If you make it in this way, we could still come out maybe with some points.'

So I think an open discussion and to explain what we can do maybe in the next weeks or what is maybe available that other people have and we can have maybe a little bit later, I think that this is really important. Also to show them this trust in them from the team. Not only are you a rider, now you have to make a result because we need to be on the TV for our partners.

I think that you have to build it up. This is not coming just in one hour. Sometimes it needs some time to prepare for what you want to achieve one day.
Looking specifically at the MotoGP side of things, Jack has complained of a lack of front feeling, and also the electronics. Would it be fair to say they were the biggest areas that have caused issues this season?

Michael Bartholemy:
I think we speak about two issues. The first issue is the front feeling, which for him is still something that is not giving him 100% confidence. But I think also that with this problem I go in the same direction like I explain to you before. Like for example 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 [Honda] 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 a 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?'

But I must say already when I was in Kawasaki [electronics] was a very special thing. I don't think that we are doing things wrong. I also don't think that we are slow, but the connection between the person that does it and what the rider wants to have is very, very critical. Actually these people need to have the best understanding to get in the box, better than with the crew chief.

The heart of the rider has to talk to the brain of this guy. Sometimes it's complicated when you have people which are coming from high-level engineering school. This is already something you need to find a little bit.

As it is our first year with Jack, I must say that for the moment I have seen more difficulties to understand his side [of the garage] sometimes. I ask in 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.

So this is why sometimes it looks like I spend more time there than on this side, but in the end I just need to understand what is going on there. 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 [with Rabat], the bike and everything is very, very different to last year.
You can see from Jack's appearance that he has been training a lot more this year. I know you didn't work together through all of last year, but from what you heard and saw, have you noticed a change in him?

Michael Bartholemy:
For sure. Jack is a 100 percent different person from last year. 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 asked, 'What are you doing?' He said, 'I'm running this morning.' This is what I want to have. Sometimes in your life things are coming back.

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 as 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.
When you consider Tito and look at his career, in each class it took a little time for him to challenge for podiums and then race wins. Do you think it was always going to take some time for him to come up to speed in the premier class?

Michael Bartholemy:
Actually he's a good question because I was talking to him before coming here. Last year we spent two hours on the stairs there and we had a private talk, just Michael and Tito, not VDS and rider. I was talking a little bit about my experience of MotoGP because I did it many years for Kawasaki. I did it last year with Scott. And actually he said to me, many times now this year I remember what he said to me on the stairs.

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 doesn'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. Today 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 made 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, 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 with 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 Moto2?' 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 f**king job! It is like this. Don't start to complain about wheelie-ing 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 will be gone. 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.' This is something that with Tito sometimes you need to push him again, and explain to him to make it in your way, make it in your direction.

From the other side, we had to do sometimes with Jack. In the beginning of the year he was making three laps then coming in, three laps then coming in. F**king hell! Start to make seven or eight laps, go in the rhythm for the race. This gives you confidence to not crash in the race maybe. If you are used to race the bike in longer sessions it makes your life much more easier than when you go in, out, in, out.

These are things that you have to work on with all of them, if they are [Franco] Morbidelli or Marquez. I think that with this experience that you have, you have to try to give it to them. In the end, they will never accept everything that we are doing. But when they are one day 50 like I am now, maybe they will think, 'F**k, this Belgian guy was not completely wrong with what he told me.' This is a little bit how you need to balance for this moment.
At the start of the year you could see each Honda struggle for top speed. Then in Barcelona the situation was different with the Repsol machines, as they were able to pass the Yamahas on the straight. Is this an update that has been passed down to your team? And in terms of the package that you have now, is it very similar to what you started the season with in Qatar?

Michael Bartholemy:
We have the updates. If you speak about this, what you see and that there is a change, we have it now. It is there. But we are not using it because you don't need it here. But for sure we will use it on Tuesday and Wednesday [at the two-day test in Spielberg].
Can you say what that is?

Michael Bartholemy:
There are some upgrades, which they [Repsol] had three races before us, which is okay. I would never complain about this. But there is a performance upgrade coming. Like I said, it is there but I think it is better when we test it somewhere else than to use it on this track.
There's been a few rumors about Lorenzo and his 2017 crew. One of the names that has been mentioned a lot is Jack's crew chief Christian Gabbarini. Do you have any updates on this?

Michael Bartholemy:
I asked him in Assen. I'm always quite straight when I ask questions and he said to me that it is correct. There is some talks, but he said he has not decided. So for sure I will ask him again this weekend!
This weekend Dorna announced a plan to cover the leasing costs for satellite teams until 2021. To put this assistance into perspective, would you say it's a huge help or does it only cover a small fraction of what you need to run a MotoGP team?

Michael Bartholemy:
It is a big help, sure. But you cannot race only with this, and Carmelo [Ezpeleta - Dorna CEO] knows this as well. But for sure it's a big help. I have to say thank you to them. It doesn't matter what anybody says about him or what he's doing or how he's handling his championship. From my side I can only say he was always a gentleman to me personally.

I think that him and me, we have spent many nights together when Kawasaki was pulling out. He always said to me, I remember a time in Madrid in the hotel, he was looking for solutions, because he was a little bit in the s**t. There weren't many bikes on the grid. When I came back and requested to him for the Moto2 team place, I think I was actually by far over the date. There were 42 entries and he accepted us to come with two riders. Three years ago he said to me, 'You should go to MotoGP. I think things will change in the future.'

Even last year when he came and said, 'Okay, I think it is better that you make a second bike!' For us it's still financially a big, big headache. The first year we came in we had no help financially, zero. We had to pay for the tyres, for the transport, for everything. Still this year we get support only for one bike. But it's like this. We know it from before. That was a fair game from the beginning.

I have to say a big thank you to him because he was always a very, very loyal person to Michael Bartholemy. I will never forget this. The help is very big, but also what is good for us I think is that he gives us this exclusivity. We are now the seven exclusive teams until 2021. This gives us some power, which we didn't have until now. Now if the sponsors want to come or if a manufacturer wants to put some bikes, or even a new manufacturer wants to come, he has to come to one of us. So I think this is a very, very big step that he has made towards the independent teams.



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