Hafizh Syahrin

Tech3 Boss Herve Poncharal On Switching To KTM, Signing Marco Bezzecchi, And Being A Yamaha Satellite Team

2018 proved to be the end of an era for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Early in the year, team boss Hervé Poncharal signed contracts which would see them leave Yamaha for KTM, and Monster for Red Bull, becoming the Red Bull KTM Tech3 squad. 20 years of history with Yamaha, and 10 years with Monster Energy ended, a new future began.

At KTM's home round of MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, the Austrian factory announced their program for the coming two years. As part of that, Tech3 announced they would also be switching to KTM for their Moto2 entry as well, with riders Marco Bezzecchi and Philipp Öttl moving up to the intermediate class, joining Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin in MotoGP.

On the Sunday after the race in Austria, I spoke to Hervé Poncharal about his plans for the next two years, and how he saw the years he had spent together with Yamaha. He talked about his pleasure at signing both Bezzecchi and Öttl, what he expects from his relationship with KTM, and ponders the predicament in which Yamaha find themselves.

Q: You announced your program this year. It’s also in Moto2, with Philipp Öttl and Marco Bezzecchi. You must be very excited about Bezzecchi.

HP: I am. This was a big mission because when we decided to move from Yamaha to KTM, I clearly took the decision to move everything - MotoGP, Moto2. But it was not easy to find the right riders. A lot of them were already signed. I’m very happy because Marco is… I don’t like to jump on the rider when he’s somebody, but I spoke to Uccio about Bezzecchi in Argentina, and even last year. So for a long time I’ve been working on him.

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2018 Sepang MotoGP Race Round Up: Tropical Heat, The Performance Goldilocks Zone, And When Dominating Isn't Dominating

How close is MotoGP at the moment? If you just looked at the championship standings, you might reply, not particularly close. Marc Márquez wrapped up the MotoGP championship after just 16 of the 19 races, with a lead of 102 points. He had won 8 of those 16 races, a strike rate of 50%, and been on the podium another five times as well. On paper, it looks like the kind of blowout which has fans turning off in droves, and races held in front of half-empty grandstands.

But that's not what's happening. The series is as popular as ever, TV ratings are high, crowds are larger than ever before, and social media lights up on every race weekend. Rightly so: the show has been spectacular in 2018. Marc Márquez' championship blowout belies just how close the racing actually is. How? Because there are eight or nine riders who can compete for the podium on any given weekend.

The five races leading up to Sepang bear this out. There have been four different manufacturers and six different riders on the podium, and that is with Jorge Lorenzo missing four of those five races. The podiums are fairly evenly distributed as well: Honda have 6 of the 15 podium places, Ducati have had 4, Suzuki 3 podiums, Yamaha 2 podiums. Honda, Ducati, and Yamaha have all won races.

Balancing act

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Provisional 2019 MotoGP Grid - 21 Riders Confirmed, Grid Almost Finalized

With the announcement that Takaaki Nakagami has signed for an extra year with the Idemitsu LCR Honda squad, the 2019 MotoGP grid is almost finalized. Nakagami's signing brings the total of confirmed riders up to 21 of the total of 22 entries.

The only rider left to be confirmed officially is Tito Rabat. The Spaniard's serious leg injury, sustained at Silverstone, has caused a delay, with his contract extension expected to have already come earlier. There is no doubt that Rabat will get the final seat, though it will probably have to wait until he is fit enough to return again.

Below is the official line up for 2019:

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The Comprehensive Silly Season Update: Mugello Madness Sees Lorenzo Go Repsol, Petrucci To Ducati, And More

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP.

So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions which almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen. Instead, Lorenzo has signed a two-year deal with HRC to partner Marc Márquez. The announcement was originally due at Barcelona, but the publication by La Gazzetta forced Honda to make a hasty and brief announcement..

The Petronas rumors had plenty of fire to provide the smoke. In an interview with Crash.net, Sepang International Circuit CEO Dato' Razlan Razali openly discussed the possibility of running Yamahas with Lorenzo and Franco Morbidelli. Everyone I spoke to – including other team managers, rider managers, riders, journalists – believed that Jorge Lorenzo would be riding a Yamaha in 2019.

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Hafizh Syahrin Confirmed At Tech3 KTM For 2019

Hafizh Syahrin is to remain with the Tech3 team for another season. As had been strongly hinted at Mugello, the Malaysian rider will follow the French team as they make their switch to KTM machinery for 2019. 

The signing of Syahrin now means that the two KTM teams - factory and satellite - now have their full complement of riders: Pol Espargaro and Johann Zarco in the factory Red Bull KTM, Miguel Oliveira and Hafizh Syahrin in the Tech3 KTM team. The two factory riders will be with their teams through the 2020 season, while the Tech3 riders are signed only for 2019, though Tech3 is in the practice of giving their rookie riders an option for a second season, allowing them to develop for a year.

The press releases from the Tech3 team and from KTM appear below:


Tech3 proudly announces contract extension with Hafizh Syahrin for one more year

The French squad is delighted to declare that Hafizh Syahrin will open a new chapter together with Tech3 in 2019. Following his late call to MotoGP this year, the Malaysian youngster delivered an outstanding rookie performance, collecting points from his first ever race in the premier class and showing an extraordinary learning curve. Yet, the 24-year old very talented rider and Tech3 are happy to continue their collaboration with high motivation and ambitious objectives.

Hafizh Syahrin

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Subscriber Feature: The Revolution Which Will Shake The 2019 MotoGP Grid Up Beyond Recognition

At the start of this year, I made three predictions for the 2018 MotoGP season: that Marc Márquez would win more races this year on his way to the title than he did last year; that Valentino Rossi would sign a new contract with Yamaha; and that this year's Silly Season would be a disappointingly tame affair, with most riders staying where they are.

Three months into the year, and it looks like one of those predictions will be right, as Rossi is already close to signing a new contract already. It's too early to judge the Márquez prediction, with racing still to start, though the Repsol Honda rider has looked very strong in preseason testing.

But I am starting to believe that my final prediction, that Silly Season would turn out to be something of a dud, will be proved completely wrong. After three MotoGP tests and a whole lot of talking, the rumor mill is running at full tilt. And what it is saying is that this could be the season where the grid is turned upside down. Though at this stage, much is still just gossip and rumor, it looks like the only factory team to remain unchanged will be the Movistar Yamaha team.

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Hafizh Syahrin To Test Monster Tech 3 Yamaha At Buriram In Audition For 2018 MotoGP Season

Hafizh Syahrin is to test the Tech 3 Yamaha at the upcoming MotoGP test in Buriram, Thailand. The test is quite obviously an audition for the Malaysian rider, who is the prime candidate to replace the sick Jonas Folger for the rest of the 2018 season.

The test is a formality for Syahrin. The SIC Moto2 team has already replaced him with Zulfahmi Khairuddin for the coming season, and all pieces are in place for Syahrin to become a full-time fixture in MotoGP. But caution dictates that the Malaysian rider must first show he what he is capable of at Buriram before being officially signed to a contract.

But the bar will not set at a particular finishing position in the test for the Malaysian. What Syahrin will have to do at Buriram is to show continuous progress, and show he is capable of learning. Given his progress in Moto2, that should be acheivable.

The press release from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team announcing Syahrin for the test appears below:

Hafizh Syahrin to test the Yamaha YZR-M1 in Buriram

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