Hervé Poncharal – "I Will Never Take Any Rider With A Contract"

It is hard to envision a worse time to lose a rider for the season. Jonas Folger's announcement that he was withdrawing from the 2018 MotoGP season to focus on his health was a hammer blow for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team. Just weeks before the start of testing for the new season, and long after riders good enough to race in MotoGP have signed contracts, Tech 3 team boss Hervé Poncharal is left looking for a replacement.

It is a massive task, especially as Poncharal is refusing to break any contracts to take a rider. "You would be amazed to hear how many phone calls I have had, and who from," told MotoMatters.com. "There were some interesting names, honestly, but priority for me, the basis for me is that I will never take or enter into any kind of discussion with someone who has a contract."

That attitude is born not just from a sense of what is right, but also from self interest. "At the end of the day, everybody is working hard, everybody is trying to finalize and make a plan," Poncharal said. "Finally you end up with a contract, and when both parties sign, this needs to have a value, because if a rider signs something thinking, 'OK, worst case scenario, this is what I have, but if there is a better opportunity, I'm going to take it...' then why do we sign a contract?"

The buck stops here

"Today I'm facing a problem, a big problem, and I'm in trouble," Poncharal said. "But why should I pass this problem to somebody who has done his job properly, and did nothing wrong? Because clearly if I take somebody from another team, they will be in the same situation I am. Why would I do that? Because also he will face the situation that he has nobody good enough to replace the guy that he lost."

Being president of IRTA, the association of teams in Grand Prix racing, would make it even more difficult to break open the contract of a rider with another team, but Poncharal is insistent that his position had nothing to do with his decision. "Of course, if I do it [accept a rider who breaks an existing contract], then what example is that? But honestly, even if I wasn't IRTA president, I would do the same. Either you have values or you don't."

Poncharal has a busy schedule set for Sepang, with rider managers either already present or flying out to meet the Tech 3 boss to discuss the vacant seat. Poncharal put the chances of having a rider in Sepang at "50/50", but whoever that test rider might be, they are unlikely to be the permanent replacement for Folger "unless they are faster than Márquez, than Rossi, than Zarco..."

Making the right choice

The Frenchman wants more time to make a better decision after discussing with everyone affected by Tech 3 having a different rider. "I took the decision that we will not finalize who will replace Jonas Folger for 2018 before at the earliest Buriram test," Poncharal said. "We have to take our time in order to check that the guy is really free, that we don't have any problems, that he's qualified for Yamaha, Dorna is happy, IRTA is happy. Now we are facing a problem, and we will not find a miracle solution. So instead of doing something stupid, let's take our time, talk all together, and make a decision that is at least hurting nobody and make somebody happy, the rider who will be selected."

Yamaha have been extremely understanding and very helpful, Poncharal said, but in the end, it was his responsibility to find a replacement. The Tech 3 boss dismissed the idea out of hand that taking one of the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders would be an option. "Yamaha is helping, and Yamaha is sorry and they are sharing the weight on my shoulder. But for sure, Yamaha is not going to give me one of the Superbike guys, because this makes no sense. Guys like Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark, they have a strong contract and a strong program. I'm not going to have one of the Superbike guys, no way. It would be wrong to me. It would be a good idea, but it would be wrong. You just move the problem."

The ideal candidate

Where would Poncharal's ideal candidate come from? "In an ideal world, the ideal profile would be a young Moto2 guy, this is clear," the Frenchman said. "I mean someone who has done one or two seasons in Moto2. This is why I can tell you that there is a name that I have on the tip of my tongue every single day, and that's Xavi Vierge." Poncharal was a huge fan of the young Spaniard, and had worked hard to try to keep him in the Tech 3 Moto2 team. But Vierge left at the end of 2017 for the Dynavolt Intact GP squad.

"I'm so sorry because if he had stayed with us, 100% he would be on the bike, and that would have made sense," Poncharal said. "Remy is too young, he's not ready, and Bo Bendsneyder is just 18 and just out of Moto3, so there's no question. But maybe if it had happened in two year's time, maybe Bo would be on the bike. That would have made sense. But anyway, I'm sorry for Xavi Vierge, he decided to sign somewhere else, but again, I'm not going to call him, because now he is in a team which has worked well and hard to secure him, and this makes no sense for me to destroy their organization. And I haven't done it and I will never do it."

The name most fans are bandying around is Pecco Bagnaia. The young Italian would appear to be a perfect fit for the Tech 3 team: highly rated in MotoGP, affiliated to Yamaha through Valentino Rossi's VR46 Riders Academy, and riding for the Sky VR46 team in Moto2. Other factories are already lurking, with Ducati rumored to be close to a deal with Bagnaia.

But Bagnaia is not an option for Poncharal, no matter how painful that reality is. "Oh! Oh! Don't twist the knife in the wound!" Poncharal jokes when I mention Bagnaia's name to him. "That was my number 1, that was my dream choice. Pecco Bagnaia, I have been talking to him since he started in Moto3 some years ago, but I'm not the only one. And now he's in a really good team, and everything is built around him. He has a chance to win races and why not the championship, so it makes no sense to break that. Anyway, it's only a dream, but it was never an option, for the reasons you understand. But you know, you could say the same with Oliveira, or Binder, or Alex Márquez, or any of the top Moto2 guys would have been a dream, but they are not free!"

An amazing talent

Despite the situation which Jonas Folger has put the Tech 3 team into, the Frenchman was still in awe of Folger's talent. Poncharal had been chasing Folger for several years, and was delighted when the German signed for Tech 3. Folger had exceeded even the very high expectations Poncharal had had of him. Tech 3 may have lost, but the loss to the sport was much greater.

"I am sorry for the team, for Yamaha, for the sponsors, and for myself," Poncharal said. "But we will overcome the problem. But I am even more sorry for Jonas Folger. Because believe me, if this guy for one year could have had everything right, healthy and positive, the skill, the level, the talent of Jonas Folger, nobody knows."

"I tell you one thing, this guy is a super talent," Poncharal said. "What we can see on the data, and what he did in the Sachsenring, that was not a coincidence. The winter tests he did with us were unbelievable. For me this is the biggest shame. I hope we haven't lost him forever, but at the moment we've lost one incredible talent that could have been honestly writing some incredible history for MotoGP championship. And this is showing us that, you know, we are always talking about bikes, technical details, improvement, but a rider is a human being. And human beings are so difficult to understand, and can be so easily disturbed."

"There will be a human adventure"

Despite the challenges ahead of the team, Hervé Poncharal remained optimistic. "I really want and I will have a two-rider team. Because anyway, there will be a human adventure. The guy we will take, hopefully will be a nice guy, and we will share some great moments, and maybe we could have a pleasant surprise. But the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team will have two bikes on the grid. 100%. And this is something I am very positive about."

Whoever Poncharal ends up choosing, that rider will have the full support of the team. "You know us a little bit, once we have made our choice, that guy will be our rider, and we will give 100% of what we can to him to help him perform," Poncharal concluded. "And at least I hope will never say, I had the chance but it was not a good chance. So he will have an opportunity to show what he can do, I think on a good bike because we saw last year the M1 is a really good bike to start on, I think the team is not so bad, so as I said before, at least we will make somebody happy."


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Total votes: 20

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Comments

Dear Herve,

I am sorry for your pain. It's a great shame about Jonas and I truly hope that you are able to find a great rider to fill that space. I genuinely appreciate your refreshing ethics about not taking a contracted rider. It's that sort of attitude that makes your team one of the most highly respected organisations. 

On a lighter note if you get stuck for a rider please feel free to contact me. My work contract runs out in mid March so I am readily available. Just a couple of things though. I hope you wouldn't mind having an older rider ..... I'm 59. I would not be very fast but at least I promise I wouldn't have any high speed crashes (it would take my body too long to recover) so I'd be a very cost effective solution as the maintenance on the bike would be much cheaper. I wouldn't need the carbon fibre discs so that is a saving too. I'm quite tall (6'2") so there might be a bit of adjusting to do ...... my body is riddled with arthritis so it's a bit hard to tuck in on the straights but if I use one of those strange pointy bicycle helmets they have in the Olympics I can streamline quite effectively. I weigh 105 kilos but that shouldn't be an issue either. It will give a bigger tyre contact patch so the grip will be much better. I'll be dead last anyway so that's ok.

No need to worry about me not obeying any dashboard command of "Suggested Mapping 8" or the like unless it's in French or Italian. I can do Spanish at a pinch but it takes a little time to translate so Johann would be well past me anyway. I know I'm being a bit pretentious in asking but would it be ok if I get the same spec as Johann ..... it's only to showcase how good he is compared to a mere mortal .... see I'm also a team player.

Anyway, I hope I have given you something to consider. I wish you the very bests for your season. Good luck in your hunt for a new rider (pick me, pick me).

Regards,

Pat

Total votes: 42

My opinion of Hervé Poncharal just took a serous jump. There were some very high-caliber statements in that article.

For all you young'uns out there who think "Ima get mine no matter what", Hervé just demonstrated what integrity looks like. When you *know* that you can advance yourself by screwing someone else and yet you choose *not* to do it, then you have demonstrated by your actions that you have a code that you live by, and that it's a code of integrity and honor.

Compare and contrast with some of the behavior that we saw in the paddock last season (does the phrase "solipsistic brat" ring a bell to anyone?), and you can't help but conclude that Hervé Poncharal is a high-quality man running a high-quality operation.

Well done, sir. I tip my hat to you from the United States. Good luck this year!

Total votes: 31

Sad for Folger as he had potential. Probably didn't even get to see it last year as his illness would of been holding him back from racing at 100%. Motogp career over as his illness can't be cured, needs rest no stress and he won't get that if he attempts to come back to Motogp.

Poncharal is a good guy will have a great 2018 season with Zarco then will also have to replace him in 2019 when he inevitably goes to KTM or another Factory team. Sure Poncharal will work some magic for 2019 though i can see Tech 3 splitting with Yamaha, relationship has been frosty to say the least.

Total votes: 15

Tech 3 will run Yamaha's up to and including 2020.

Rossi wants to run his own satellite Yamaha team. But the rules state there are NO more team or rider slots on the grid.

So the only way Rossi will get his own team is to buy an existing one and non are for sale.

Total votes: 5

Has went on record stating the rule on grid numbers would be altered in the event that VR|46 wanted to start a team. 

Total votes: 8

I certainly liked what Josh Hayes had to say about J.D. Beach - I mean seriously what options does Herve have? I don't follow the CEV closely but is there anyone from there? Eric Granado, Ricard Cardús and Hafizh Sayahrin were the only ones to win races any of those in 2017, and there are a great list of BSB winners as well (not too many young ones though) - but aren't all these riders under contract? I tweeted Cameron Beaubier's name to Poncharal a few times even playing up the French-sounding last name but it looks like he's tightly locked into MotoAmerica's Superbike series for 2018 - Maybe J.D. (Superprestigio winner) is a viable candidate! He's succeeded in Europe, winning the Red Bull Rookies Cup, he's a Yamaha guy, part of the Owensboro/Nickey Hayden world and trust me... he's a whole different cat than Josh Herrin. Anyone wanna give me odds it's going to be J.D. Beach?

Total votes: 37

Herrin was quite disappointing in Moto2 when paired with Zarco.  If it's a contract issue, MotoAmerica & Graves would have to collectively agree to send/release Beaubier to Tech 3.  If the goal of MotoAmerica is to feed American talent into the world stage, isn't this the opportunity to do it?

Total votes: 2

Herve says "he" and "him" a lot in his answering to questions.  Here is a Curve ball and a potential experiment for MotoGP (would be great PR anyway)..... why not hire a girl?  there are a couple who are in the smaller classes.  would be good for the sport to give them a go.

at least give them a test.

Total votes: 39

Maria Herrera ? If she had experience in Moto2 maybe but with only a couple of bad season in Moto3 it's maybe not enough. Ana Carrasco is riding in 300 SSP series .. too far from a motoGP bike . Not many option unfortunately. 

Total votes: 13

As a biased Australian, "Mad" Mike Jones should be a strong candidate. He ticks a lot of boxes:

 

- is young - 23 years old

- has international experience having raced Superstock 1000 last year

- has MotoGP experience after filling in at Avintia Ducati a couple of seasons ago and impressively scoring points and suffering no crashes

- and he's currently a free agent!

 

Get on the phone Hervé!

Total votes: 4