17 Jul, 2017
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MotoGP: Dream Tech3 season means Monster might stay

Herve Poncharal talks dream start to MotoGP 2017 with Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger - plus sponsors, Yamaha, VR46 rumours...

MotoGP: Dream Tech3 season means Monster might stay
MotoGP: Dream Tech3 season means Monster might stay
Tech3 Yamaha looked set to lose its MotoGP title sponsor at the end of this season, but the rookie heroics of Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger mean Monster might now stay.

"In Valencia last year the Monster representative told us, 'thank you for what we have done together in the last nine years. 2017 is going to be our last year because we would like to have more visibility, better results. We would like to be with a factory team'," Tech3 boss Herve Poncharal told Crash.net.

"And I understood. I was sad, but not upset because this is part of the game. But their position, like all our other sponsors, has changed. Now we are in positive negotiations with them to renew. So very clearly what Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger have done so far has also helped the team in this respect."

Zarco stole the spotlight at the Qatar season-opener by leading on his first six laps as a MotoGP rider.

The double Moto2 champion then fell, but quickly put the disappointment behind him with strong rides at the following rounds - ruffling the likes of Valentino Rossi along the way - culminating in a pole and podium in front his and Tech3's home fans at Le Mans.

Folger's fuse was slower burning, but also exploded in spectacular style with second place at his home round just before the summer break in Germany. The pair are now sixth (Zarco) and seventh (Folger) in the world championship, as the top non-factory riders.

Both have already been confirmed at Tech3 for 2018, which is also the last year of the team's present agreement with Yamaha.

"I always sign a two-year deal [with Yamaha]. So I signed last year for 2017 and 2018," Poncharal confirmed.

As the only satellite Yamaha outfit, Tech3 are frequently caught up in the rumours that Valentino Rossi's VR46 squad may one day field a MotoGP team.

"We hear a lot, and I of course hear a lot, that Valentino Rossi wants a MotoGP team," Poncharal said. "He has denied it, but still there are rumours and having a Moto3 and Moto2 team it would make sense one day to have also a MotoGP team. I'm not stupid!

"So what will happen in case Valentino retires at the end of 2018? I don't know. Valentino recently said he might continue riding in 2019 anyway…

"The thing I can tell you, and this is very clear, is the six independent teams: LCR, Pramac, Gresini, Tech3, Aspar and Avintia have a contract until 2021. That contract says that no-one can come into this championship as a new team.

"If someone wants to join they must either buy an existing team, or make a deal with an existing team… Nothing else but a second bike to Lucio [Cecchinelli, LCR] can happen until the end of 2021.

"So it's impossible for somebody, let's say VR, to join in 2019. Unless everyone agrees to another two bikes. That's not going to happen because you lose your value."

An extract from Crash.net's exclusive interview with Herve Poncharal can be seen below…

Crash.net:
If someone said in the winter that you'd be leading races, claiming poles and podiums by the summer break, what would you have said?

Herve Poncharal:
"I would have said 'you are a dreamer!' Some people might think we were being pessimistic or not saying what we were really feeling during the winter tests, when we were talking about being in the top ten. Honestly, this is what we were targeting. Because two factory Ducatis, two factory Hondas, two factory Yamahas, two factory Suzukis - they were coming off a great season with Maverick - plus Cal, Petrucci, Redding. On paper, it's easy to be outside the top ten.

"So the first part of the season has been unbelievable for us. We could feel something during the winter tests, but you don't really know if everybody is showing all their cards. We saw our guys were quick, but we didn't know if the same situation would apply in the races and in all started with a bang with Zarco leading in Qatar.

"But I was so sad, because I also thought, 'maybe that was our only chance'. Leading a race for six laps ahead of Rossi, Vinales, Marquez, Dovizioso and all these guys might never happen again. I spoke to you on Sunday night in Qatar and told you Zarco had said, 'Herve, don't be sad because I know this situation will happen again'. And I thought… [raises eyebrows].

"But from the next race in Argentina, then Austin, then Jerez, Johann just went up and up. We've had a front row and podium in Le Mans, pole in Assen and now a podium for Jonas in Germany. This is for sure something we didn't expect and way beyond our targets.

"From the business point of view, in Valencia last year the Monster representative told us, 'thank you for what we have done together in the last nine years. 2017 is going to be our last year because we would like to have more visibility, better results. We would like to be with a factory team'.

"And I understood. I was sad, but not upset because this is part of the game. But their position, like all our other sponsors, has changed. Now we are in positive negotiations with them to renew. So very clearly what Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger have done so far has also helped the team in this respect."

Crash.net:
Are your other sponsors also looking to renew now?

Herve Poncharal:
"Our two main sponsors are, number one Monster and secondly Stanley Black and Decker. I have a three-year contract with both companies which ends this year. So I need to find something for 2018."

Crash.net:
And how about Yamaha?

Herve Poncharal:
"I always sign a two-year deal. So I signed last year for 2017 and 2018. As you know, I've also signed my riders for 2017-2018. So we are together Yamaha-Folger-Zarco-Tech3 until the end of 2018.

"We hear a lot, and I of course hear a lot, that Valentino Rossi wants a MotoGP team. He has denied it but still there are rumours and having a Moto3 and Moto2 team it would make sense one day to have also a MotoGP team. I'm not stupid!

"So what will happen in case Valentino retires at the end of 2018? I don't know. Valentino recently said he might continue riding in 2019 anyway…

"The thing I can tell you, and this is very clear, is all the teams have a contract. Factory teams and independent teams. But let's talk about the six independent teams: LCR, Pramac, Gresini, Tech3, Aspar and Avintia have a contract until 2021. That contract says that no-one can come into this championship as a new team.

"If someone wants to join they must either buy an existing team, or make a deal with an existing team. The only thing that is clear is that at the moment we have 23 places and the 24th bike will go to Lucio, because the format we want is two riders per team. Nothing else but a second bike to Lucio can happen until the end of 2021.

"So it's impossible for somebody, let's say VR, to join in 2019. It's impossible, unless everyone agrees to another two bikes. That's not going to happen because you lose your value."

Crash.net:
As far as leasing costs in general, has the new contract created more of a 'market', with factories competing for the extra money given by Dorna to the Independent teams to cover the lease of machinery?

Herve Poncharal:
"I can tell you every manufacturer is going to the maximum cap, the maximum price [2.2million euros per rider]. At some stage it could help, but right now the top manufacturers still hold the cards.

"The problem is that, a bit like in Moto2 where everyone wants a Kalex, in MotoGP if you don't have a Yamaha, Honda and now Ducati it's difficult. Because right now KTM, Suzuki and Aprilia are not in front.

"Even if these three factories would agree to lease bikes, which team would take them? Because basically you would lose out on having the top riders.

"We're doing great at Tech3 this season, which is helping our sponsors to reconsider their support for us. Why? Because of our results. And the results are down to the rider, team and technical package.

"Maybe if I have another brand I cannot keep these riders. So even if I got a small discount on the bikes, if I lose my sponsors and riders the situation is worse. So I don't think we, the Independent teams, are in a stronger position than before in that sense."

By Peter McLaren



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8 Comments

  • iamzombie 17 Jul, 2017 14:28:28
    I'm glad to hear their success is not likely to go unrewarded, Tech 3 work hard and deserve to be rewarded for their efforts.
  • cruachan 17 Jul, 2017 14:52:27
    All the Tech3 team seem like genuine nice guys who just love racing, especially Herve.

    What a difference from when I first watched MotoGP. Back then they were sponsored by Dunlop and struggling to finish in the points. Since they got decent tyres they've pretty much been the satellite team to beat every year.
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