As well as speaking to Scott Redding about his aims for 2013 at the Marc VDS launch in Belgium, we also had the opportunity to interview Marc VDS Racing boss Michael Bartholémy. The German-speaking Belgian had a lot to say on his expectations, not just for Scott Redding and Mika Kallio in Moto2 this year, but also of the high hopes he has for Livio Loi, the 15-year-old Belgian youngster who will be racing in Moto3 for the team.
But perhaps most interesting of all, Bartholémy talked openly about what went wrong in the team's negotiations with Ducati last year. Through the middle part of 2012, it looked as if Marc VDS Racing was in the running to be managing the Ducati Junior team, with Scott Redding on one of the two satellite Ducati Desmosedicis. It did not work out, leaving Redding racing in Moto2 for another season. Bartholémy explains why. The Marc VDS boss also gives his vision on the production racers likely to be introduced for 2014, and how they affect the team's plans for next season. The interview follows after the jump:
Michael Bartholémy: Sure, but I think every year is always a big year! I think it's the first time that we really have a lot of stability. Even when we started the first year with Suter, we came very late with the idea of making Moto2, so I think half of the year we were still preparing the season a little bit. Then the second year, OK, we had a few issues with the bike, but now, I think we came out of a quite good season for what I call a North European team, not like Marquez or Espargaro has, so to finish 5th and 6th in the championship was not bad.
For sure we could make better over the last year, so I think that Scott had some small, mistakes, like Brno for sure was a mistake from his side, when he crashed in the first left corner. He should know it's always a little bit tricky there. Then when Elias put us out in the Sachsenring, that was not really helpful. And for sure our performance in the wet was not as good as it was in past years. So there I think that we have lost basically the third position of the championship doing this for five races.
But in the end, I feel OK, still, five podiums, it is a hard class, I think that third was not bad. So when you see the testing now, for sure for me I see a lot and I know also many things about Kalex, for sure we have tried a lot of things. You know, we have tried many chassis, and many many different set ups. And a guy like Espargaro, who's on the same bike as us, he never tried anything. He just goes out, he wants to make the fastest lap time, he comes back in, he waits a little bit, he goes out for the fastest lap time again.
So when you see that Scott actually only had one hour in Jerez where we said to him, OK, we will leave you free to ride, with nothing to test, you can go for it, I think he was two or three tenths behind him, and sometimes even just one tenth behind at the same moment, I think it's not so bad. We improved a lot on the wet, for sure when you see, let's call them the wet specialists, like West, Zarco, Simeon, Cardus. These are the fast guys in the wet, they were all behind us by more than half a second. I think this was quite a big step with the things that we have tried with Scott, so I think that now, if it is wet one day, we are again there, not like we were last year.
So, for me I think when you analyze these 6 days, or Espargaro only did 5 days, on these 5 days, I think for the moment, Espargaro is two tenths faster than us, this is about the average. Then it's Scott, and then basically there's a gap of three tenths where there is this mix, where there is Terol, Simon. These people will be there for sure. But the good thing with Scott is that normally he's always everywhere fast, you know, so he's not like only fast in Spain, or only here, or there. This should be a little bit to our advantage, and in the end I think we have to count on a mistake of Espargaro. Because I think that sometimes, not often, but sometimes he's a little bit more on the ground than Scott, so this can maybe make the difference in the end in the championship in 2013.
With Mika for sure we have somebody who for me is like a security thing. To know he is there, he is maybe not the person we will say he will make a podium in every race, but he is always there when we need him. Like at Sachsenring when we had the crash, he got on the podium. When we were a bit struggling in the wet, he was there, he finished 4th, 5th. I think for a team, it is also quite important that you have this stability.
MM: That you have a good solid reliable second rider.
MB: It was also a big contribution from him also, when we first moved to Kalex. He helped us a lot with the set up, he is a rider who has a lot of feel, so I think it was good that we kept him in 2012. And I think also a little bit, we had to honor this sometime, so we said OK, we make another season together.
MM: You said that Scott was faster in the wet, it seems like all of the Kalexes seem to be better in the wet. Now Mika said maybe that's just because it was at Jerez, and there is so much more grip there, even in the wet. Do you think the bike is better this year?
MB: I think the bike has improved, a bit, sure. And for sure, in Jerez there was a lot of grip. When we go to a place like Le Mans, somewhere like this, it could be a little bit tricky. But with Mika, I think anyway he is always stable, but I think this year he was struggling a little bit more than Scott. But with Scott last year, we were really in the shit, we were talking about 2 seconds slower than the leading guys. So when you see now he is two, three tenths, then you know you have made a step, because for sure the difference with Mika was not so big. But for me, the changes we have made for Scott were a big improvement, not a small one.
MM: Scott also talked a lot about not having pressure, avoiding pressure so that he can focus on the championship. It's almost a paradox, focusing on the championship by not focusing on the championship. To do that, he has to have the freedom from you not to feel he has to score results every time he's out there.
MB: No, but you know, I think that he is coming a little bit more mature than he was in the beginning, when he came to us. Because he was nearly a young child, like Livio (Loi) is now. And I think also from my side, me personally, I go now into my 23rd season of managing teams, so I think it is not any more that I go to the race and put pressure on people and say, you have to win, you have to win. For sure, if I know that we could do it and we did not do it, then we discuss about it, we discuss about mistakes, but like the race in Brno, where basically we threw it away, I'm straight with Scott. But for me, I think and hope that we have a little bit of relationship which is a little bit like, father with son or something, I respect him, and he respects me. So this is quite important, and for me, I'm there to build them up and not to put them down. And so this is important with somebody like Scott, and it's even more important with the young guy we now have in Moto3.
MM: Speaking of Livio, the first half of last year in the Red Bull Rookies I wasn't so sure of him the second half he was really impressive. What are your expectations of Livio this year?
MB: Basically the expectation for us now changes a little bit whenever he is on the track. But, like when he came to us for the first time, when he was struggling a little bit with the money to go racing, we put together some money with some friends, we helped him a little bit. I must say there was no expectation. And then last year, we said, OK we will do the Rookies Cup and we will also go in without thinking about anything. But then, from the Sachsenring, when he was leading a race for the first time, I was thinking, the potential is really there with him. And then we made a private practice before he went to Brno, we went to Misano, we started doing what other people were doing anyway, to give them some experience.
Then when we signed the contract with Marc [van der Straten], because we have a two year contract with Marc for Livio, we were quite open with him, because also Marc was one of the three people who has supported last year's project. Basically it was Bischoff Scheck, a German company, myself and Marc, we put the same amount of money on the table to help Livio go racing, and then when we spoke to Marc about the 2013 season, we said OK, the expectation should be between 20th and 30th place in the races.
Then, for us I think a big change was the last Spanish championship round of last year. There were eight people there that did a full Moto3 season, with Sissis who got a podium, with Binder, there were five ex-GP guys, in total 56 people, and Livio finished second in his race. So this was for me the moment when I thought, he is better than some other people around for this moment. For sure when you see guys like [Philipp] Oettl, who did 3 years in the Spanish championship, three years of Red Bull Rookies, always when Livio was on a bike against him, he beat him, so there is something in this kid. Then when you see the last six days, OK, he had two crashes, which he had to learn, but on average on the track on the same moment, in the wet he is between position 4 and 9, and on dry, he is between 9 and 18. This is a little bit where he is on the same moment on the track. I still think, OK, if you finish between 20th and 30th, still I'm happy. But now, I think that sometimes he can make some points.
MM: This year's objective would be score points regularly, and then next year looking at the championship or looking at regular podiums?
MB: But for me, also I look at what other people have done. I look at what Marquez did, I think his first year was 14th when he came to 125, and then he was 8th and then he won it. So I think if Livio could finish in the top 15 in the first year, because he will already miss two races, I think this is already a big thing. And then if he can go in the top 10 the year after, and then he has to go for it. Anyway, I think we should go for him for three years, because this year is really a learning year. As you know, he was on the full-sized bike as he is riding now for the first time in November 2011. Before, he had never ridden a bike like this. So we rented the Zarco bike in Valencia, so for somebody that only - OK, he rides motorcycles all his life, but he only rode a real bike with full-size wheels, a full-size bike only fourteen, fifteen months ago, I think he is not bad.
MM: For a long time, last year, it looked like you would be going up to MotoGP this year. Were you disappointed that you didn't move up, or did you find it easy to accept?
MB: For me, I must say, I was there seven years, so I know how it is and I know how it is at the highest level when you manage a factory team. So, for me, for Michael Bartholémy, private side, now when I go to the races, when I go on the plane, I think this weekend we can be on the podium, which is a nice feeling. Sometimes in MotoGP, you know you're happy to go maybe in the top 10 or top 6. So for me now, the situation that we have, I think for myself, I'm more satisfied with it.
But when the Ducati people were going in the direction the offer was at the start, it was a nice project. Because I'm always somebody that, I like some challenge - when I came to Kawasaki, also, they were twenty three and twenty four, and in the first year we made tenth. At the end of the nineties, when Honda called me for the Supersport, they were really in a bad position with Riva, so I find the people and we finish 5th in the championship, best ever result for them. In the beginning of the nineties, I was the first person who entered a Superstock bike in the Superbike championship.
So a challenge for me was always something I like, but then, when it was getting so complicated, not because of the technical people, but because of the administration people in Ducati, I was feeling very disappointed. Because we had a big will to make it, with Marc, with Scott, there was a lot of things behind. Because you know, Marc, he can move a lot of things if he wants to. And then in one moment, they wanted to start to always pull a little bit more from us, and they wanted to have this and that, and always a little bit more questions and then we had to pay more money and they were changing their mind every 15 days.
And also, when you see how they were treating Scott and at the same moment they were also negotiating with Iannone, they were really working on two different levels. It was like, they treat Scott Redding like a person that sleeps in the road and Iannone like the big star, but Scott was always faster when they were on the bike, you know? Then for sure it was hard for me to be in the paddock and say, OK, we won't do it, because we went there with the private plane of Marc, Marc was waiting for us to do something, Scott was thinking, OK now I go to MotoGP. Then I sat them all around the table and said, OK, I do not feel welcome. There was something saying to me that they [Ducati] don't want to have us. They want maybe to have our money, or something, but they don't want to have the personality.
Because I think it is also important that we can bring something. I could bring something at Kawasaki, me personally, because we did a lot of things. Our rider can bring something, Marc could bring something, there was not only one aspect. And then I said, OK if I had to decide alone, I would not make it. Then Marc move a little bit to my side and said, OK, the last days, when I saw how it is changing and these things, I would also prefer to stay in Moto2. And then OK, Scott came also and said, OK, I want to stay with you guys at this moment, so if we have to do another year in Moto2, then we will go.
So until today, I have no regrets. But I can say also, if they come back now, during this year, and they offer us something with Marc VDS, something to Scott Redding, or this or this, I am open for everything, as soon as we feel that they want to have us. I think in motorcycle motor sport, this is very important: that you feel welcome and that you have all these people behind you, to push you to make this result.
MM: The feeling of trust and confidence in people around you?
MM: 2013 hasn't even started yet, but are you maybe thinking MotoGP in 2014?
MB: This depends a little bit on what will be maybe a possibility or what offers we have, but for us, we take it easy at this moment, we let people come to us a little bit. I think that Scott will have some offers, I guess. So if he can go, I'm very happy. If we can go and make something together, I'm more happy. But if he can go [to MotoGP], I think this is a little bit the philosophy of Marc. That he wants to be the person to bring them up to this level that they can go. He showed this in the car team with Maxime Martin, who is now a factory driver with BMW this year. I think if Scott can go to MotoGP, for sure Marc is also a happy man.
MM: 2014, because you said there's no way you'd run a CRT team, would you consider a production racer, one of Honda's production racers, or one of the Yamahas. Would consider that, but not CRT?
MB: No, CRT, for sure we were the first people to try the CRT, we had the first bike on the circuit, we did a lot. And then even when you see, like last year's result at Brno, they were slower with the same bike that we were one year before with Mika at the same circuit. But CRT I will not do any more. If there is a good opportunity for a production racer then yes, but not CRT.
MM: Do you think it's possible for the CRTs to get closer to the prototypes?
MB: If the rules stay the same as they are now, I would say not, there will still be the same gap.
MM: What would need to change?
MB: OK, the biggest change is really when they make the spec electronics, for everyone the same, that would be a big change. But still the gap will be there. I think the way is only production racers. This is the only way, you know, that the factories say this is what you can lease or buy this package. This is the only way to come a little bit closer to them.
MM: And that way, you would expect Honda's production or a racer using Yamaha's engine to be more competitive?
MB: For me both. For me, if Honda said OK, we are interested in the team, what do you want to do and with these things, we are open, but it's the same for Yamaha. And it could be maybe the same for Ducati, if they say, hey, we have this package, etc etc. We are interested, but it has to be a package that we like. Not that we feel, just, like the factory is saying, Oh, we have a small cut, can you be the bandage?
MM: It has to be a serious effort?
MM: Is Scott going to win and be champion this year?
MB: Sure! No, but this is the target, you know. For sure this will be difficult to beat Espargaro, but I want to win with him, Espargaro is not my rider, so actually, I don't give a shit about him, I want to win it with Scott Redding.