Fast Factories vs Suffering Satellites: Hervé Poncharal on the Plight of Independent Teams

"I am not a very happy man," Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told us on the Thursday before Barcelona. His problem? Attracting competitive riders to take the seats vacated by Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. Their destination was emblematic of Poncharal's problem: at Barcelona, Espargaro announced he would be reunited with his Tech 3 teammate in the factory KTM team in 2017 and 2018.

So Poncharal found himself with the looming likelihood of fielding two rookies in 2017. The Tech 3 boss signed Jonas Folger back in Le Mans, while Johann Zarco is the prime candidate to fill the second Tech 3 seat. (Zarco is currently in Japan testing Suzuki's GSX-RR MotoGP machine. He is expected to sign with Tech 3 once Suzuki have announced they are signing Alex Rins to partner Andrea Iannone.)

The original hope was either to keep Pol Espargaro alongside Folger, to ensure consistency of results, or welcome Alex Rins into the fold on a factory Yamaha contract. Either way, it would ensure the publicity which is vital to keeping sponsors happy. Two rookies and no factory connections is a lot less appealing to the people who help provide the €8-€9 million it costs to run the Tech 3 team.

The fashion for factories

Why can't Tech 3 keep Pol Espargaro, or sign Alex Rins? "Although we have machinery very close to the factory teams, it looks like now there is a trend or a fashion. If you’re a young, fast rider there is nothing but a factory ride," Poncharal said. "I think this is quite difficult for us to swallow, to understand."

Poncharal expanded on the example of Rins. "He would be a very exciting prospect for us. He’s got the same title sponsor which is Monster. So it makes sense." The problem is that the Tech 3 seat is no longer seen as the best route to a factory ride. "When [Rins] sees who is on the factory Yamaha, it is somebody who joined Suzuki and has been offered the deal," Poncharal told us, referring to Maverick Viñales' switch from ECSTAR Suzuki to Movistar Yamaha. "So is the best route to have the Factory Yamaha to go through Tech 3? It doesn’t look like at the moment."

What was even more disturbing than Rins' insistence on a factory ride was the interview Rins' father had given recently stating that they would rather spend another year in Moto2 than go to a satellite team in MotoGP. "I was shocked," Poncharal said. "It means it's better to do a third year in Moto2 than come to LCR, Tech 3..."

There are a few reasons why talented youngsters are avoiding satellite teams, and there is little the teams can do about any of them. The biggest difference between this period and seasons past is the sheer depth of competitive machinery. After the switch to the single tire rule, there were only really the factory Hondas, the factory Yamahas, and Casey Stoner on the Ducati to defeat. "When we have only two factories, we are fighting best of the rest to be fifth," Poncharal said. "I think we were doing eight podiums a year."

A level playing field, for some

The introduction of spec electronics has been instrumental in both the improving performance of Ducati and in attracting more factories back into MotoGP. The common software has removed an expensive piece of the performance puzzle from the equation for budding factories, factory electronics gurus now spending more time understanding the data from bikes, rather than chasing algorithms to match those of Honda and Yamaha.

It has taken Suzuki eighteen months to go from being uncompetitive to being in the hunt for podiums. Now that Aprilia have a proper prototype MotoGP machine, they too are making leaps and bounds, their biggest deficit being the thirty-odd horsepower they are missing. Ducati have used their experience with last year's Open Class software to go from occasional podium candidates to chasing their first victory since 2010. KTM's development cycle has been able to concentrate on power delivery and chassis behavior, without having to also deal with the complexities of chasing a moving target as they develop their own software.

All this has left the satellite teams standing on the sidelines. "We were a B team some years ago, but I think now we are C teams," Hervé Poncharal told us at Barcelona. "Now we have a minimum of four factories ahead of us, so it means we’re fighting for ninth. But the six factories will be doing whatever they can do to be faster than us. We’ll fight for 13th. And then it will maybe look a bit weird. You have to be in the Parc Fermé after qualifying being 13th, or to be in the Parc Fermé after the race and be 13th in the race." In 2011, Tech 3 was hoping to get lucky and bag a podium. In 2017, they will be hoping to get luck and get inside the top ten.

Body count

Why are satellite teams struggling to get into the top 10? The biggest difference is in the resources available in setting up the bike. "Because the electronics are more rudimentary, then we have to work more on the electronics. We don't have the same people [as the factories], then the factory bikes are much faster than before, then satellite teams are much more f***ed than before," Pol Espargaro said at Jerez.

Where satellite teams have one data engineer per rider – and in some cases, are forced share a data engineer between two riders – the factory teams have two electronics specialists per rider. More important than that, however, is the truck full of engineers in the paddock, and the specialists back at the factory. A satellite rider will probably have one engineer to help him decipher the many gigabytes of data generated each weekend. A factory rider has a small army to figure this all out.

For Poncharal, the most important factor is neither the difference in support, nor in the equipment available, but in the riders themselves. "Very often we are focusing on the technical level," he said. "We say, he’s got the latest suspension, or the latest electronics, but in the end the main difference is the guys on the bike. This is why Ducati spent that amount of money [on Jorge Lorenzo] and why the top four or five riders are paid what they are paid. Without them it’s almost impossible to win."

The deepest depth chart

The Tech 3 boss has a point. Riders (still) matter more than anything, and since 2008,the depth of talent is greater than we have seen in many years. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez take up five of the top nine positions in the list of all-time premier class winners, and five of the top eleven slots in the list of all-time winners across all Grand Prix classes. Though Stoner has retired, Maverick Viñales is showing every sign of making it five outstanding riders any aspiring talent has to beat. Even if everyone were on identical bikes, getting on the podium would be virtually impossible. In any other era, Dani Pedrosa would have multiple championships, and riders such as Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, and Cal Crutchlow would have multiple race wins.

How to fix the problem, and make satellite teams competitive again? Hervé Poncharal was pessimistic. "Clearly the riders are a key point. Because we can’t attract these guys, the future doesn’t look too bright right now. What to do? I don’t know."

The one solution Poncharal did propose was the rule he had previous pushed for, and which had been brought in in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. "A few years ago it was my idea, which I thought was a good idea, and why I pushed for it. It was the rookie rule. I think it was quite good because at least all the exciting young prospects had to go for year one through an independent team before moving to a factory team. I don’t think that was going to be a very big handicap for their career."

Unintended consequences and the rookie rule

That rule had seen Ben Spies go to the Tech 3 team in 2010, after winning the World Superbike championship at the first attempt in 2009. But it had not been the rookie rule which kept Spies out of the factory Yamaha team. Who would Spies have replaced in 2010, after all? The reigning world champion Valentino Rossi, or Jorge Lorenzo, who finished second with four wins and eight other podiums?

The rookie rule had finally been scrapped once Marc Márquez entered the class. "Clearly Marc Marquez was asked to go to the factory team, and LCR was the only independent team at that moment," Poncharal explained. "But LCR was [sponsored by] Castrol, and Repsol was pushing Marc into the MotoGP class. That was breaking the whole situation and that was a big case."

LCR had a relationship with Castrol going back many years, while Repsol had backed Márquez since the beginning of his career. The two sponsors were incompatible, but it was clear that Márquez was ready for MotoGP. A further complication was that Márquez demanded that his whole crew came with him, which would have meant Lucio Cecchinello sacking all the mechanics in the LCR team, only to have to try to rehire them again at the end of that season, once Márquez departed for the factory Honda team.

Márquez' situation was clearly unique, and hard cases make bad law. But some kind of accommodation is necessary if satellite teams are to continue to thrive in the championship. For proof of just what role they can serve, look no further than the factory Aprilia team. Aprilia wanted to return to MotoGP as a full factory team, but did not have the resources to set up a factory MotoGP team from scratch. So they co-opted the Gresini squad, with Gresini running the team side, and Aprilia handling the bikes and technical development. Gresini mechanics still staff the pits, and crew chiefs have remained, but Aprilia's engineers are charged with bike development.

Victims of success

In reality, the satellite teams are a victim of the success of the championship. The rules introduced in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 have finally succeeded in turning MotoGP around, and producing a series which is in rude good health. Five full factory efforts are competing this year, with a sixth joining in 2017.

Those factory teams leave talented riders spoiled for choice. Once upon a time, the best hope a new rider had of ascending to a factory team was by joining a satellite team such as Tech 3 or LCR. Now, they may do better by taking a chance on Suzuki or KTM, despite the risk of the bikes not being as good as the Yamaha M1s in the Monster Tech 3 garage. Extensive support, and the chance to develop the bike in a direction you want, means young riders are opting to skip the satellite teams altogether, and heading straight to factory teams. As Hervé Poncharal says, Suzuki, KTM and Aprilia are now the B teams, and Tech 3, LCR, Pramac and Marc VDS are the C teams.

How not to do it

In a way, Pol Espargaro is the poster boy of this development. Brought to Tech 3 on a two-year Yamaha contract as Moto2 champion, Espargaro was clearly being groomed to take the place of Valentino Rossi in the factory Yamaha team once Rossi retired, and do battle with his old adversary, Marc Márquez, once again.

But it didn't work out that way. Valentino Rossi didn't retire, so there was no room in the Movistar inn. Nor were there vacancies at Repsol Honda, Dani Pedrosa remaining a loyal HRC employee, and continuing year after year. Neither Honda nor Yamaha would drop the riders who had battled for championships for them. So Espargaro was stuck at Tech 3, on a bike that was developed for Jorge Lorenzo, and which Espargaro felt did not suit his style. He had no input in the direction of development, and not enough support to try to take the fight to the factory riders. He wasted away, a lackluster year in 2015 terminally denting his image, which he is only managing to salvage with a strong season in 2016.

Arguably, Pol Espargaro's decision to sign a factory contract with Yamaha ended up hurting his career far more than he could have imagined possible. The entry of KTM into MotoGP may have saved him, giving him a chance to show that he can make the difference.

We can't all be winners

Where does that leave the problem of the satellite teams? Sadly, there are no easy fixes. The rookie rule may help a little, but the real issue is the difference in levels of support for independent and factory teams. Persuading manufacturers to cut back support for their factory teams is a lost cause – they are just as much under pressure to produce success as the satellite teams are, but the stakes are five to ten times higher than the independent teams. With 23 bikes on the grid in 2017, somebody has to finish second. And third. And tenth. And twenty third...


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Total votes: 241
Total votes: 222

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Comments

Bradley put it very nicley last year. "I need to be by far the best satelite, so a factory has no choice but to sign me". And they did.  From a spectators point of view, Pol never made that step forward. Bradley performed admirably in 2015,  Pol lagged behind. Maverick on the other side, battled Aleix from the go, and this year left him far behind. If Pol could adapt to MotoGP and beat Brad by a decent margin, factory would pick him up. Even if Rossi retired, he would probabley be promoted to second factory rider. But from what we saw so far, Pol is no mach for the aliens. I believe, japanese factory teams should help the satelites more during the weekwnd and update their bikes over the season.

Total votes: 225

Bradley did not win moto3 class championship nor the moto 2 title. Nor has he had any podiums in his 3 years in Motogp. Bradley had one year experience on the motogp machine when Pol joined him. 

With the same amount of experience Pol is wiping the floor with Smith this year with one year less experience. 

Its quite hypocritical of British Fans & Julian Ryder & Keith (sometimes Nick Harris & Matt Birt ) to consider Bradley, Redding and Crutchlow who'll be languishing at the back of the grid getting beaten by Pol,Petrucci (who broke his hand and still beat Redding) and Satellite ducatis to hype them as if they are teethering at the edge of victory or a podium finish.

Please call it as it is. Smith was never going to set the motogp championship on fire the same way Marc did it. Nor was Pol. It might have been a case where Pol did not have the best bike. But he did not do a good enough job with the bike he had. 

Total votes: 244

Brad had at least 1 motogp podium. But I do agree the English media do love to rate their riders a little more than they're worth in my opinion. That said Smith did rather well last year. Well better than I expected anyway.

Total votes: 209

say what you thik about the performance of any particular rider and your impression of their ability - but;

Please dont state completley wrong and highly inaccurate  "facts" 

Bradley Smith never rode in Moto 3, he did however finish 2nd in the 125 World Championship in 2009 on an RSA Aprillia. 

In Moto2 he rode the Tech 3 better than anyone else has and podium'd 3 times.

In Moto GP Smith has podiumed in both 2014 and 2015.

Total votes: 216

I totally agree with you about Smith not winning his respective lower class title, but Alex Rins is the hottest prospect (not in motogp) right now and he hasn't won a moto 3 or moto2 title.On the otherhand loads of moto3 title winners who had strong prospects simple havent made the jump to a more power bike while some riders improve when they get on a bigger bike. I understand that people take different amount of times to adapt but riders like Alex marquez for example who a few people rated on par with Rins wasn't even considered by a single Motogp team in the driver market because his performance and consistency just wasn't there.

Total votes: 203

The increased number of factory teams will inevitably force the independent teams to the fringes. 

Trying to attract a major sponsor or a top young rider to your independent team - when the best you can offer them is an occassional top-ten position with no hope of future progression (and little or no salary), will prove to be an increasingly futile task.

Reinstating the 'Rookie Rule' is not the answer because it doesn't address the lack of competitiveness that independent teams suffer from and which is the very root of the problem.

Maybe six factories and eighteen fast bikes is the answer - with each factory adopting or partnering a one bike independent (or development) team who would then be responsible for grooming one young rider each? Perhaps then they could supply their chosen development team with a 'same-spec' factory bike, share track-side resources and help nurture new talent in an environment where independent teams could compete competively - rather than make-up the numbers as is the case now? 

Total votes: 207

He will just have to wait, the spec electronics will bring the whole field much closer and sattelite bikes will be able to fight for the win again. That's what we've been saying for years so it must be true! Right?

Total votes: 215

Nobody ever believed that spec electronics would provide a level playing field.    The answer unfortunately for Herve lies with the factories themselves.   

Honda charge their satellite teams a fortune for equipment that will never be more than 90 % of factory kit.

Lin Jarvis has stated the 2016 Tech3 bikes have never been closer to factory equipment than they are this year – don’t see it in the results though…   

Conversely at Ducati, the Pramac bikes are properly factory supported and on the right day perform at a similar level to the factory machines (just needs Scott redding to get his head around the tyres and Petrucci to have a good hand again)

Even the 2nd string Ducati teams are better looked after than the official satellites to the Japanese factories.   

The satellites could be closer, all it takes is for a Factory Technician to walk into the garage and update the software....

Total votes: 228

"Nobody ever believed that spec electronics would provide a level playing field."

But that's just not true. Especially on this site, even David himself has been guilty of blaming the electronics for everything that some people don't seem to like about MotoGP. There would be the biggest shake up of the grid in years! Especially with Michelin coming in as well.

Turns out the gaps have stayed the same or increased. Who'd have thought?

Total votes: 208

In my defence, I would point out that what the spec electronics has done is level the playing field among the factories. Suzuki would not have stood a chance against Yamaha and Honda if proprietary software had still been allowed. Ducati would have had more problems than they have now. Aprilia - hard to say, their electronics package was actually pretty good.

What the spec electronics has done is remove a lot of the advantage in tire wear, which is what made the difference for the factory Yamaha and Honda teams. But optimizing the electronics is still time consuming work, and something which it helps to throw warm bodies at. In the short term, the factory teams have an advantage, while everyone is still learning to optimize the electronics. In the long term, as everyone learns the electronics (which will not be receiving much development, if any), and knowledge trickles down from factory teams to satellite teams, the satellite teams will catch up. The satellite teams will never completely catch the factory teams. But the current gaps will get smaller.

Total votes: 193

I have to disagree with you. Suzuki built a very good bike using their own software, there is no evidence to suggest they would not be where they are now without the spec electronics. Ducati is just as far off as last year and they won't win a race again until at least Qatar 2017.

Tyre wear is a good point, but you only have to ask Pol Espargaro what he thinks about that. The factory teams still have the same advantage they had there too.

Your last point I agree with, the sattelite teams are less far behind than before so they have less to catch up to. But my point is rather that electronics are not really that important at all in this issue. Do you really think that if the Tech 3 engineers figure out the software as well as the factory Yamaha team that they can fight for podiums and wins? I think we all know the answer to that. They would get closer surely, yes, but a few seconds here and there will not make any difference.

Total votes: 203

The Suzuki riders, and Davide Brivio, have all said that the spec software is an advantage for Suzuki, as they were lagging behind in software development. It was a factor in their decision to return to the series, and both Espargaro and Viñales have said that the spec software is a big improvement over the proprietary software Suzuki had been using prior to that.

Suzuki did build a great bike in 2015, and the main problem wasn't the software. This year's bike is much better in all of the areas they were lacking in 2015 - more power, and a seamless gearbox. We won't know how much of a factor software might have been, because we will never see the 2016 bike racing with Suzuki's proprietary software. However, if the riders say that the spec software is better than Suzuki's software, I have no choice but to take their word for it.

Total votes: 238

Fair enough on Suzuki, if they say the spec software was an improvement you'd have to believe them. But it clearly is not the case for Aprilia.

Total votes: 194

Agreed about Aprilia. Their WSBK package on the RSV4 was already excellent. 

Total votes: 183

spec electronics or not, this year is going to be an outlier.

because spec electronics were not the only change.  we had number of permitted engines change, a spec tyre change, a rim size change to deal with as well.

the factories made chassis revisions to suit the new tyres and rims.  the satellites are often running 1+ year old chassis that were made to work with bridgestones.  is it any wonder they are behind the 8 ball?

PLUS:  factories have the best engineers, the most money to throw at R&D and salaries to fix a problem.  there were too many changes this year, in my opinion.  they should have done the tyre change this year and spec ECU next year in my opinion.  Or spec ECU in the 2014-2015 season.

making too many big changes in one hit with limited testing stretches development resources to the limit and the satellites do not have the same resources to cope.  It is no surprise that the factory teams coped a lot better with the changes in 2016 in my opinion.

next year when the satellites get the hand-me-downs from 2016 i think things may level out a bit.

 

 

Total votes: 191

Correction, I never expected it to be a level playing field.    

No matter what the base setting is, a satellite team with one electronics tech between two riders e.g. Tech 3 is not going to compete with a factory set up who until 3 months before were writing their own software on a race by race and corner by corner basis.

Total votes: 196

This should self correct within a couple contract cycles though. Right now rookies entering motogp are "taking a chance" on the new factory teams (aprillia, KTM, Suzuki) not only because they are factory teams but also because the seats are available. And the reason the seats are available is because these new factories are still seen as a gamble, an unknown. Once the new bikes approach their peak development it won't be an unknown anymore and they'll either be competitive or they won't. That will mean that once again desirable factory rides won't be available to rookies entering the class because not all the factories will be desirable and a good independent team will be a more appealing ride. 

 

Total votes: 234

I agree with this. There is some excitement right now over new rules and new factories, but once that dies down I think a sattelike Yamaha or Honda ride will still be your best bet as a rookie coming from Moto2.

Total votes: 172

I don't see Hervé switching manufacturer soon. Yamaha and Tech 3 have some history that goes a long way back.

And neither do I see another factory joining in the near future. Kawasaki has even expressed it has no desire to join MotoGP.

Total votes: 201

Realistically, I don't think Aprilia is that far off the mark.  The grid is as competitive as ever for one and secondly, their development is relatively mirroring that of Suzuki in 2015.  Currently Aprilia is occupying 13 and 14 in the championship where Suzuki finished last year 11 and 12.  Anomalies of this include the GP14.2 of Laverty and Barbara which were not in front of Suzuki last year. I think it's fair to say that next year with another year of data and winter work behind them, they'll be able to fight for the 7-10 positions regularly that you'd expect the "B teams" to do.   And remember, Aprilia is really only in their first year of re-entering competition with a fully prototype bike.  

Total votes: 207

Bradl and Bautista are Independents, they are scored in that championship with Tech 3 and so on.  How that works I don't know. If you aren't a fast manufacturer you're an independent?

Total votes: 197

"Ducati have used their experience with last year's Open Class software to go from occasional podium candidates to chasing their first victory since 2010"

Just don't see Andrea Dovizioso or Andrea Iannone winning a race this year.

 

 

Total votes: 207

HP seems to be one of the most eloquent and intelligent manager/owners in the paddock. His strategy of bringing on new talent is a good one - but it is undermined if the factories do not support the satellite teams 'in the right way'. This is a long-standing problem and illustrates an 'I'm alright Jack' approach, whereby they keep most of the money/other resources for themselves, and only filter-down what they believe is essential for the satellite to to have any credibility.

Handicapping is an effective measure - it kept Ducati 'honest' in WSB, more or less. The factories currently have little incentive to provide more 'suport' to their satellites - both the Honda and Yamaha teams have their issues this year and it was ever thus. Ducati seems the best at this at present (or is that the riders....?).

Perhaps adding weight to the factory bikes for every time interval between them and their satelites, would help even things out? If the satellite slipped too far back from the #2 bike in a particular race, or series of races, an amount of weight could be added. This would 'encourage factory support and a degree of forward-planning - a team would gain an advantage from an update but unless it planned the roll-out to the other teams the benefit would be short-lived. That might have stopped the wasteful development of things like MGP-only seamless gearboxes, as the marginal improvements would have been lost very quickly, instead of being an affordable benefit to everyone.

This would force factories to help the slower teams - yes, they might be less-inclined to help Dorna get more bikes on the grid as satellites, and it would still be very much a two-horse race unless this applied to every one of 'their' bikes on the grid. Ducati seem to be quite good at it though. It might also avoid the obvious factory-fix of making no team an 'official' satellite.

Hard rules make bad cases too - as proven by the rookie rule. Weight is not the only way - you could allow rev-limits, fuel limitations, or grid penalties to be chosen by the factory as long as they also commit to delivery of the upgrade or assitance required by the satellite. Imposing hidden rules upon satellites would be self-defeating, as the penalty will not be removed until the performance deficit is eliminated. There will have to be 'acceptable' margins to cater for newcomers and the inevitable basket-case team - you do not want to prejudice new teams etc. This might include a season-by-season approach to such teams, whilst the Tech 3 types will only be a couple of races behind before something kicks in.

Such rules will not get Pol the full-factory bespoke bike he wants, but it could close the field up - which is what the fans wish to see, I believe. Would this have stopped Ducati having so many 'development partners'? I don't think so - they chose that route, because they could afford it, and the handicaps wouldn't have affected a truly collaborative and fair arrangement. KTM are following the more usual route, along with Aprillia, and Suzuki.

Just a thought.

Total votes: 209

As much as he 'would like to be/is/claims to be' a feeder team to the full factory set-up, his vision has failed. No-one in recent times, except Ben Spies, has progressed from Tech3 onto a factory Yamaha ride.

There's plenty of reasons for that, but with an 'outsider' like Vinales jumping over the head of Tech3/Yamaha contract rider Pol Espargaro, it just shows how much out of touch with reality Poncharal is.

Dovizioso, Spies and Crutchlow flattered his set-up. Dovi got plenty of podiums, but promptly left because he had potential. Now Poncharal's left with 'wannabe's' who can't even contemplate a podium, and a bike that now can't begin to compete.

Smith/Espargaro or Folga/Zarco. Only the names change. They're left-overs. Not a Yamaha factory rider amongst them. 

Well done Herve - but not so much 'Monster' money for you next year, not with two unfancied rookies in your team and with no hope of top-ten success.

What are you going to do for your next trick? Maybe get a reality check and try to develop a way forward? I doubt it.  

Total votes: 250

Why such a vitriolic rant?  We should be thankful that Herve and his organization have put their lives into the MotoGP paddock and entertaining us with great performances over the years.  It sure is easy sitting in our armchairs and having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight to judge the decisions he has made, but I give him credit for accomplishing much with so many variables out of his control. This includes Yamaha dictating one rider in his garage by contract and manufacturers changing technical regulations without regard to downstream impacts.

I think it is rather brave to be so open with his predicament as sponsors might be turned off by his honesty at now competing for a top 10 as the lowered goal.  I wish them the best.

 

 

Total votes: 226

I'm sorry that you see it that way and I'm sorry that Poncharal's team finds itself in this sorry predicament. I'm sorry because it was completely predictable.

Herve Poncharal is the President of IRTA. He's 'in the loop' and a major player in any decision making process. Surely he must of been aware of the consequences of inviting more factory teams to the party? Suzuki, Aprilia and KTM didn't suddenly decide to join over-night, but their presence now threatens the very existence of independent teams like Tech3.

Poncharal ponders and wonders why?

In a recent interview, Poncharal said: "Our main sponsor (Monster Energy) came to the Barcelona GP and I am convinced that he is not happy with what we can offer to him in 2017." Poncharal then went on to say that media attention for private teams is "dwindling" and added: "So what can we offer future partners and sponsors? Nothing".

It has the potential to become a dire situation, so what does the IRTA President suggest? A return to the failed 'Rookie Rule' and a seperate championship for customer teams - like CRT or Open class? Neither suggestion will result in an effective remedy because they've both been tried before without any success, and were simple 'knee-jerk' reactions to unforeseen problems. No vision.   

He makes no mention of trying to ensure parity of equipment. No mention of customer teams receiving upgrades at the same time as the factory team and no mention of unrestricted testing for customer teams. No new ideas - just re-cycled old ones instead.   

On a more positive note, Dorna and the managers of the increasingly alienated customer teams are set to hold a meeting at Assen to discuss a way forward. I sincerely hope it works, and that someone with more than a modicum of brains, together with a winning smile and a rather large degree of self-interest, finally takes a stand on behalf of the privateers - and the sport.

http://www.speedweek.com/motogp/news/93646/Tech3-leidet-Wie-werden-Kunde...

http://www.motogp.com/en/news/2016/06/02/poncharal-for-young-fast-riders...

Total votes: 224

Interesting that direct copies of winning bikes cannot be competative against bikes still under development. It tells something about the overall strenght of the championship... but also about the constraints of being in a sattelite team. However is it not the truth that the satellite Honda's and Yamaha got beaten by Ducati's often and that these Ducati's are also satelites?.

Aprilia and KTM are mentioned as threats, but reality is that these bikes have not been a threat this year (maybe next year).

First thing I think about the " we cannot get the best riders"  remark is: Ofcourse, you should pay them also. If they fail on a Yamaha they are failed forever. If they fail on a KTM, people would think it is the bike. And maybe the Moto2 candidates are not the best candidates for adapting to Yamaha since the Yamaha style is to exploit front grip at leanangles riders learned to avoid in Moto2 because of chatter.

Second thing is the crew. Motogp rules has been made to limit costs, with a focus on equipment. But I think the levelling the playing field further needs restrictions in the amount of people within a team/surround a rider. Difficult since it is not easy to draw a sharp line between mechanics on site and development effort at the factory.

It is said that factories like to invest in bikes that is suitable for any rider. This means: stay within the standard levels of adjustment and proof yourself on a pretty conventional setup bike. General concensus is that it is more effective to focus all work in one direction. It still would like to see how Toni Elias would do with a bike and tyres that really suits his style.

Total votes: 208

Based on Estoril 2006, I think we have a good idea of what Tiger Toni could've done with the right tires.

Total votes: 201

Those once in a year events are great for entertainment, but I don't think you can extrapolate them out.  Based on Valencia 2006 Troy Baylis was a championship contender in motoGP.

Total votes: 198

Agreed, difficult to extrapolate. But Estoril 2006 is especially germane to the question posed. What might Toni Elias have done with the right tires? For that race, he was allowed to use a set of bespoke tires that had been intended for Dani Pedrosa. With the right tires, Toni killed it!

Total votes: 174

the 2016 tech3 bike isn't a direct copy of a winning bike (or rather, formula).

it's a 2015 yamaha on different tyres, different wheels, different ecu with a lowered rev limit.

if we were still running bridgestones on 16.5" rims and fully custom ECU and the same factory yamaha rev limit,  then maybe it would be comparable, but we're not - unfortunately for tech 3.

 

Total votes: 174

why not bring back Crutchlow? His best years were on board of the Tech3. Now granted, he's not 'young talent' but he's not really doing awesome on the LCR Honda. Give him a 1 year contract and see how competitive he is and then you can sign a moto2 guy for 2018.

Total votes: 216

We JUST got rid of the Open Class, yet the first thing that comes to my mind when discussing the lacking competitiveness of satellite rides is to give them artificial advantages. A soft tyre in qualifying, an extra five engines, an extra thirty minutes of track time on Friday. It certainly allowed the weakest teams in the paddock to survive the financial crisis. 

How about a maximum of five years on one factory bike for any given rider? After five years, you either move to another factory, or to a satellite squad for one or two years. Lorenzo, Rossi and Pedrosa have been hogging three out of four race winning bikes for the better part of a decade now. Or, if the factories would rather keep their allstar line-up, a rule that forces a third factory bike onto the grid after five years of the same two riders? 

I think Poncharal's plight is not only the problem of LCR, Tech3, Aspar, Avintia, MarcVDS and Pramac, it's also a problem for a lot of riders who would have loved a chance at showing their worth but can't, because they're forever in satellite limbo. Unless you're either a factory rider or Toni Elias, your chances at winning a race are currently "one in a decade". 

Would you turn up for work if the chance at a paycheck was "one in a decade"? 

Total votes: 198

think I already proposed this on the forum : 

at the start of the race WE, per rider Dorna supplies 1 laptop. That laptop is the only laptop that can connect to the bike. It's has no other possibilities of communicating with anything/anyone else, meaning it has no other LAN,WLAN,BT, serial, ... communicaton possibilities except for connnecting to that riders ECU only (specific passwords).

consequence : per rider, only 1 guy at a time can work on electronic setup.

result : playfield again becomes a lot smaller between factories and independent teams.

 

my prefered solution still is to ban any factory involvement. Just selling the bikes to anyone that wants one, and teams racce them during the year, as it was in the 70's

Total votes: 228

I'd like to her David's comments on this one honestly. Makes sense. 

I'd hate to be the electronics guy though. That'd be an immense amount of pressure!

Total votes: 208

I've always admired Poncharal and Cecchinello. I met Lucio at Laguna Seca one year by the corkscrew and chatted for a few min. As a marketing guy I really loved the way LCR (while struggling to get sponsorship support) tried a different strategy of having multiple sponsors that would share at different races.

I hope that they can continue to fight for top positions and hopefullly Dorna will figure something out, otherwise we may lose them. They've stayed strong when the times were tough and factories gave up and walked out on other riders... Kawasaki -> Melandri, Suzuki (they've made some great leaps coming back and I'm glad they are doing well).

Good luck to Tech 3 and LCR in the future!

Total votes: 206

No more satellite teams, period.  MotoGP is only a class with factory entries that support THREE bikes each for a total of 18 bikes on the grid.  Happy now?  

And, if somehow the factories could afford it, use the old model bikes for an entirely new class that would be only the independent teams with also 15 or so bikes on the grid.  

 

Honestly, why are there 20+ bikes?  We never see more than the top guys 75% of the time.  If they wanna cut costs, maybe just collect these back markers from Moto2 and MotoGP and just have another race under some slightly different rules or something. Then we have more racing to watch!!

 

This sounds way too expensive.....

Total votes: 195

Is that Moto1 you're talking about?

Spec 1000cc engine.

Chassis provided by Moto2 chassis providers.

Carbon brakes (of course) allowed.

Recruit the best riders from Moto2 and Superbike.

Total votes: 220

Yup!  I think you've nailed it!  Tantalizing thought honestly!  I think back to the Forward Yamaha, a decently competitive frankenstein of a machine.  it would be interesting to see a true privateer class such as that choosing between engines and chassis. Although you might run into the problem of a kalex cup.  

I mean seriously though, wouldn't that cut costs and maybe boost revenue? After all, selling TV race time is the $$$ in racing. And then  Jack and Tito aren't languishing at the back riding a 4 million euro RCV that is just crashing them out? All honda has to do suddenly is supply an RCV engine, not a whole bike. If you kept the rider count in all 3 classes overal the same, lets say what, 80 full time riders roughly, you'd have the same logistics as far as motorhomes, garage stalls.  I mean, I just started watching superbike this year and all that, so if Grand Prix added another race series, well I'd pay for it. I'd watch. As i'm sure a lot of other people would.  There's a lot of addicts to this sport out there after all...

And, this would put to bed that issue of 'rookies not being prepared by Moto2'.  Here's you liter bike with carbon brakes.  Go for it. 

 

Total votes: 190

Less-restrictive rules, including with tires, is probably the best way to get non-factory winners because it provides the ability for odd-ball solutions (including bizarro solutions that maybe can't be easily manufactured) to be tried out.  However, factory resources mean that non-factory champions are probably not possible.  The tighter the rules, the harder it is to optimize within the rules, and small advantages become insurmountable.  This is simply a fact of rules-driven systems like MotoGP racing.

Total votes: 199

Herve -
I like him. I often yearn for his input and listen when he speaks. Here, this seems to be a simple plea for the rookie rule reinstated, and when seen as such makes some sense.

"A factory ride" is a focus of riders, with prideful off track desirables. Kind of like a girlfriend w really big boobs. Yeah, not inherently good for a lot, but LOOK...I have a FACTORY RIDE!

Herve is sulking a bit. Reality and which can place where, he has good bikes. Can a satellite team get and keep an Alien? Not likely. Has this ever been the case?

Rookie rule? Worth a re-consider.
Yamaha providing satellite bikes closer to factory spec as is possible? Could be a good thing for everyone - data and development is bolstered. And an attractive B team for a rider pipeline is good for the factory.

Really though, are the Aprilia and KTM squads "B" teams, and the Yamaha/Honda satellites "C" teams? Yeah, right now Poncheral had his two good riders decide orange is the new black. And after they get to be in all those season opening photo shoots and such, where will they finish next year relative to the satellite Yamahas?

This is a strange time, the silly season has been goofy. Things are in flux. Herve hasn't had an easy go of it. But then again, he has some good riders talking with him. The folks that could have plenty to complain about are the current Honda satellite teams. That is a LOT of Euros to shell out to get beaten by a Ducati GP14.2 etc so often.

Herve has cultivated a lot of good riders. He has good relationships with SO many and values that. There are just 4 of the precious Yamahas out there and he has two. I understand his bewilderment with his silly season experience recently. Hang in there, you have some good options. One of his two rookies is very likely to be placing consistently ahead of the KTMs, Aprilias AND unwieldy Honda satellites.

Total votes: 221

While I understand Herve's lament; someone has to come last.  No longer are Honda and Yamaha so dominant that even their second tier bikes are better than the rest of the factories.  I, too, would like titles to be won by the best rider, or the most team who just managed to get everything right, and all teams having a chance at the title, but complaining that the satellite teams have too much competition -now that there are so many competitive factories- sounds like an embarassment of riches for motoGP in general.  

Total votes: 195

Instead of 3 one hour races, put all three cases on the track at the same time and have one three hour race with tire changes, fuel stops, and rider changes.

 

 

 

ok, just kidding.

Total votes: 196

Can anyone actually tell me what the downsides to the rookie rule where or are?

I fail to see why this rule can't be re-instated, with little to absolutely no down-sides for the viewing public.....I repeat, the viewing public. We want fast guys on fast bikes, and surely this goes someway to achieving this same aim. Plus it instantly legitimizes the existence of satelite teams as a pre-cursor to factory teams.

Honda got their way to abolish the rules when it doesn't suit them. Surely we can re-instate them when it doesn't suit others. No?

 

Total votes: 192

Earn a degree at university. Graduate at the top of your class. When you receive your degree, I'm going to give you list of the best companies. You're not allowed to work for any of them.

I'm doing this because a political ally needs to use your talents to save his business.

Why shouldn't I be allowed to do this to you? It doesn't affect any of the customers or any of the employees who already have more than 1 year of industry experience. What could go wrong?

Total votes: 171

I dunno, I'm not sure Herve has a legitimate claim.  I mean should a low budget team (in comparison to a Factory) using less than cutting edge equipment and rookie or developing riders really be competitive with a Factory squad?  And what does he have to offer a rookie rider that is team more attractive than a Factory gig?  As it is one of his riders is sitting in 6th in the Championship despite only having one result better than 8th.   

At this stage his gear may be better than Aprilia/KTM but those Factory's are full of potential for improvement and including the likes of Suzuki, there is the chance of a long term relationship where Tech 3 is only ever going to be a transit lounge.  Hell, Smith had a stellar year last year and was still going to be shown the door!   

So I think Herve is being somewhat disingenuous whith his comments: depending on how the chairs are laid out when the music stops in any given year even the brightest up and coming star could be left in a very crappy position after serving their apprenticeship in Tech 3.

No, if you are the brightest young light in Moto2 you have everything to lose and nothing to gain by going to a satellite team.  While it would be nice to say he will learn more in a satellite MotoGP squad than by doing another year in Moto2, why would he take the risk of becoming another Tito Rabat when he could stay in Moto2 and maintain his status as the hottest prospect on offer?

So in the current environment, where the satellite guys are struggling to come to grips with the new electronics I think Rins has played this game of brinkmanship pretty well.  

My feeling is that Herve needs to do use his years of experience and spot some less obvious talent like he did with Smith.  Most people thought he was on drugs when he pulled him from the clouds at the mid/back of the Moto2 grid, yet it proved a master stroke for all concerned.  Forget the high profile guys, they deserve to go to Factory teams, use your experience Herve and drag some talented under appreciated rider out from under the cloud of a poorly managed/funded/equipped team and into the light.  Or think completely outside the square and sign up a Baubier or Elias or Sykes etc and use the other seat for the young gun you are trying to foster.  Any of those guys would generate huge interest from sponsors and public alike and given their respective positions may just be inclined to accept a seat at the big table.

Total votes: 192

How about changing the constructors championship system, if I am right the best score is counted atm. How about changing that to average point of both Factory and Independent teams.

Total votes: 203

Why is Tech3 even bothering with their Moto2 project?

Total votes: 209

In six seasons of competing in Moto2, Tech3 has failed to achieve a single victory. Only Smith has managed to achieve anything on the Mistral, and is the only rider to ever progress from it into their MotoGP team.

Their current riders lie in 23rd and 25th position in the standings.

Still, it makes Tech3 out to be a 'constructor' (of sorts), so it's primary purpose is probably that of being a 'cheap political tool', rather than an 'effective race weapon'.

Total votes: 207

... if you don't even try you're definitely never going to get any victories.

in the last 6 seasons of competing, ducati have had had very many wins at all and zero championships, so why are they bothering?

 

same reason.

Total votes: 178

Labor of love perhaps?
I am thankful there is a smaller scale build project team in Moto2. Lots of us have hoped for/expected more of them. With the low costs for entry we could have SO many of the chassis builders in it. Keep at it Herve!

Total votes: 209

Some really great conversation here with some valid points.

I personally think the rookie rule is a great idea as it gives a independent team greater exposure, better results and more assistance from the factory if they had a treasure like Vinales come to them. Yes it won't be like that with all like Pol has shown.

Having private chassis constructors with leased engines and electronics similar to Harris/Roc Yamaha. It was either back then with no electronics but it could work. 

One suggestion I have is that the factories have to provide any update of chassis, motor or electronics to their independent teams within 3 races of it being introduced? Yes I do realise that could possibly need extra resources but it could work. Or alternatively the pass down the current package once the new introduced? 

Total votes: 240

I feel that providing satellite teams with latest hardware update (if any!!!) can work out contraproductive since they do not have the same capacity to dial them in, analyse, understand the impact of changes that much that they keep in control and make them work. I think that during a season riders rather fear to loose the feeling with the bike they built up already and are very shy to major chassischanges: The only human who likes change is a baby that has wet its self 

Look at the rejection of Valentino and Jorge of the radical changes 2016 model. I think the design can't be bad. Is Marc riding with the 2014 chassis lay-out.

What I believe is that besides gearbox, winglets and revlimiter the differences are minimal or not existing and that it is the rider and the quality/quantity of the crew that matters

Total votes: 167

I think it would be nice if we could find out the difference in development between the tech3 times and the times of Valentino within a weekend.

So first day, second day, raceday. Obviously the gap is always there because of skills, rev limiter, lasted updates gearbox, , but I think trend is that the largest step of Valentino is made saturday night. Also would be interesting to compare this trend with the time of last year

Total votes: 160

It seems to me that the paradigm shift that has occurred in recent times is the increased time that riders can spend in the class.  Other than Stoner voluntarily retiring, there has been basically no rider 'flow' at the top since 2007.  Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa have locked out 3 of the top rides for more than a decade.  The only one to come into the near-elite and leave again was Spies.

In earlier times a rider would not expect to get much more than 5 years at the top of the game, injury was always their companion and eventually it would beat them.  The "easy to ride" 4-strokes in combination with electronic aids, improved riding gear, safer circuits, and improved medical repair-jobs have all combined to greatly extend their riding careers.  Not a bad thing of course, but a major reason why fresh talent finds it hard to get the favoured rides, how can you when those rides are permanently occupied by the acknowledged best?  The great thing about having more factories is that you might get a bit of rider movement between brands as has happened with Ducati - which freed up spaces for both Spies and Vinales which would not have otherwise been available.  If the same happens with Suzuki, KTM and Aprilia as they go through cycles of strength then rider movement will be more regular and the lottery is opened up.

As for Tech3, sadly I just don't think they've had podium-contenders on the bikes for 2 years, that's why the results have not been there (OK Smith has podiumed twice but in races of attrition).  I'd be happy but surprised if they go any better as KTM factory pilots.

I never liked the factory/satellite arrangement anyway, it felt fake.  A mix of factories with different strengths and weaknesses all running 2-3 riders on equally supported machinery will definitely be preferable to an ordered Honda/Yamaha procession with their satellites finishing a pre-programmed distance behind.

Total votes: 189

It's all about the tires. During the tire war, the manufacturers offered a wide variety of compounds and constructions. On race day, some teams gambled with aggressive strategies. If a rider was struggling with setup issues, the team would try to limit damage by changing the grip balance until the rider was comfortable. Unloved overnight specials were offered to sattlite teams as reportedly happened in Estoril 2006, when Tiger Toni supposedly got a set of tires Pedrosa rejected. 

The turmoil created good racing because no one knew if the tires would hold, and the riders were adapting on the fly because they hadn't logged 2 race simulations during practice.

The rookie rule was a controversial half-measure, and it made HP look like he wanted a sport defined by comfortable mediocrity. I don't blame him, but fatalism doesn't sell sporting events, not even in France.

MotoGP should invest in Michelin, if they want to impove the spectacle and competition. Emphasizing tire strategies and racing-on-the-fly will remind everyone that only 20% of winning is down to the motorcycle. Eventually the GPC will stop fretting over the tiny nuances of bike design, and they'll start repealing the unnecessary rules. 

Total votes: 204

Why has Poncharal chosen 'now' as the time to flag-up such an obvious issue that all non-factory teams have faced?

Is it because the devious guy with the winning smile suddenly finds himself in difficulties?

Both Smith and Espargaro have understandably flown and now there's no-one left to partner Folger. I wonder why? 

Total votes: 195

If Herve can't find a rider to partner Folger then he might be too picky.  It seems likely that Zarco, Bradl, and Bautista will be looking for rides for 2017.  They're all world champions, and two of them have motogp podiums.  While not likely to win the motogp title, both Bautista and Bradl were showing some real talent before the Honda became so difficult to ride.

Total votes: 170

Herve is not going to get a lot of help by pushing for "but i want to be competitive". So? Punish the new factory teams so you can get an occasional podium and they cannot? That would be the last thing Dorna wants, they much rather see KTM or Aprillia get an occasional podium, because thats where the money is.

Imo Herve has a much better chance of getting some kind of help if he goes for: "great these new oems, but please realise that if you dont do something right now you will lose the independent teams within a few years because finding 9 million in sponsorship is an awfull task to do now that we are kind of competitive but is impossible with 12 or more factory bikes".

Total votes: 168

Could Dorna force the factories to provide four exact same spec bikes, two for the factory team and two for satellites. If the factories try to sneak the system then, like Moto2 engines, have Dorna pass them out, if they must. If that still doesn't work, then perhaps stop all in season development, (although this has many pitfalls) or allow only a set number of updates that must be applied to every bike.

 

Beyond this, it is hard to see how else the factories, the controllers of specs, would be convinced or forced to change. 

Total votes: 165