Despite all attempts to put MotoGP's silly season on hold while the world awaits Valentino Rossi's announcement that he has signed for Ducati, the business of filling next year's empty seats rumbles on. That business is most pressing for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, as the team looks set to lose both its current riders at the end of this season.
In an interview with the French website Moto Caradisiac, Monster Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal sheds some light on his plans for 2011. The interview covers both MotoGP and Moto2, and in it, Poncharal lets slip a few interesting details.
Before talking about what his plans are for next season, he first points out that everything is contingent on Valentino Rossi moving to Ducati. But that matter is to be cleared up on the Sunday night after the Brno race, Poncharal told Moto Caradisiac, saying that Yamaha has a press conference planned at which they will announce their 2011 line up.
With that proviso out of the way, Poncharal discussed the possible options to fill the empty spots in his team, admitting that Cal Crutchlow is the favorite to take over the Yamaha-funded spot in the Tech 3 squad. "He is the favorite," Poncharal told Moto Caradisiac, "and he is already on good terms with our sponsor Monster." The Sterilgarda Yamaha World Superbike rider also has Monster as a personal sponsor.
As for the seat likely to be vacated by Colin Edwards, Poncharal was so far at a loss as to who would take the Texan veteran's place. The French team boss was clear on who wouldn't be riding for him, though: Poncharal rejected suggestions that Andrea Dovizioso could take a seat in the Tech 3 squad, pointing out that the Italian had a very firm contract with Honda. He also dismissed any interest in Tony Elias, pointing out that although Elias is doing well in Moto2, the reason the Spaniard is in the class is because nobody would have him in MotoGP.
Perhaps the most intriguing piece of information that Andre Leconde managed to tease out of Poncharal, though, was his thoughts on Moto2. The Tech 3 boss confirmed that the team would have a French rider in the Moto2 class next year, going on to say that he was not recruiting from the current crop of Frenchmen already racing in the class. Instead, Poncharal had turned his gaze to the UEM Superstock 600 championship, currently being raced as a support class to World Superbikes. Poncharal is keen on signing either Jeremy Guarnoni or Florian Marino, the two men leading the Superstock 600 title race.
Poncharal's interest in the Superstock 600 class is significant, as the Moto2 class has proved to be an entirely different kettle of fish to the 250cc class whose place it took. Many of the big names from 250s have floundered in Moto2, with riders like Hector Faubel, Mike di Meglio, Mattia Pasini and Stefan Bradl languishing in mid-table with just a handful of points. The 250 pilots complain that they can't get the 600s to steer with the precision of a 250, and spend a lot of time working on setup to try and correct the problem. Meanwhile, former riders from production classes such as Kenny Noyes, Alex Baldolini and Yonny Hernandez have been scoring surprisingly strongly, despite a lack of track knowledge on most of the circuits raced so far.
The key to going fast on a Moto2 bike, it appears, is not to expect it to behave like a 250. With more horsepower, more weight and bigger tires, the key is to bully the bike around the track, treating it more like a chainsaw than the scalpel-like precision of a 250. That skill is one learned on production bikes, as the setup options - especially on Superstock machinery - are very limited indeed. The key skill that riders learn in Superstock is making the best of what they've got, rather than trying to make the bike perfect before attempting to race. With development still ongoing in Moto2, and the bikes still a long way from perfect, this could open the door to other Superstock and Supersport riders joining the ranks of Moto2. As some pundits predicted at the start of the 2010 season, the Moto2 class has opened up another route into MotoGP, alongside the traditional path of 125s, Moto2 and then the premier class. That in itself is a good thing, and promises even more when production-based 1000s in prototype frames are allowed to race in MotoGP from 2012.