The next piece of the 2017 MotoGP Silly Season puzzle has fallen into place. Today, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team announced that they have signed the German youngster Jonas Folger for the 2017 season, with an option to keep him for a second year into 2018.
That Tech 3 should sign Folger is no real surprise. Hervé Poncharal made no secret of his opinion of Folger, mentioning the German in every conversation about finding riders for Tech 3. Poncharal had tried to sign Folger previously in 2014, hoping to get him into MotoGP in 2015, but the German was in the middle of a two-year deal, and unable to get out of it. Two year's later, Poncharal has his man.
Folger had also been a target for KTM. As a German speaker, Folger would have been a good fit with the Austrian manufacturer, and give them the young Moto2 rider they are looking for to slot in alongside Bradley Smith. The lure of a proven bike at Tech 3 may have been the deciding factor for Folger, though.
The question of who will join Folger at Tech 3 is still wide open. Bradley Smith is already headed to KTM, and Pol Espargaro's recent criticism of Yamaha have made it clear he has lost patience with the Japanese factory, and is looking for a change of manufacturers. As Espargaro is on a Yamaha factory contract - Yamaha have the right to place a rider with Tech 3, should they wish to - it has been widely assumed that Alex Rins will be the rider to fill Espargaro's seat. But Rins is still holding out for a seat in a factory team, and has so far turned down Yamaha's attempts to get him into the Tech 3 seat.
If Rins isn't placed in Tech 3, then the second rider could also come from Moto2. Poncharal has also spoken highly of Johann Zarco, and though Suzuki has an option on the Frenchman, he could find a home at Tech 3. Yamaha World Superbike rider Alex Lowes has also been linked to the seat, but Lowes has another year on his contract with the Pata Yamaha WSBK team, and Tech 3 could not afford to buy him out of that option. If none of these options work out, then keeping Pol Espargaro could be an option for the French MotoGP team.
Below is the press release from Tech 3 announcing the Folger signing:
Tech3 to join forces with German star Jonas Folger
The Tech3 team is excited to announce the signing of Moto2 front-runner and bright prospect, Jonas Folger for the future. The 22-year old has been competing in World Championship races since 2008 and he has since battled to 16 podiums and four race victories across all fields. The young Bavarian from Mūhldorf, who comes off the back of a second place finish at the previous GP in Jerez, will get his first taste of the Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike at the post season-finale Valencia test in November. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team is delighted to announce the new signing for the 2017 season, which includes the option for an additional year for the promising youngster.
Jonas Folger :
“I am super excited about the news and I still can’t believe this is happening. I have been racing for years in the motorcycling World Championship and to make the move up to the premier class is a dream come true plus I'd like to thank all my sponsors that have stuck by me all these years. Furthermore, it’s an honour to make this step with Yamaha, Hervé Poncharal and Tech3 team who have such a long and deep history in the paddock. I will try my absolute best to repay the faith the team has put in me, and I’m really looking forward to the new adventure. However, I will remain completely focused for the rest of the year in the intermediate class but I can’t wait for Valencia where I will sample the Yamaha YZR-M1 for the first time.”
Hervé Poncharal - Team manager :
“It’s always a very important and tough decision to make when it’s time for us to choose a young rider to start his career in the MotoGP class. We have been thinking a lot about who has the best profile to replace Brad, who has done a great job with Tech3 for four years and is now ready to move to a full factory team. Having thoroughly checked all the names and details of the young riders in various championships, the name Jonas Folger came out on top. He’s a nice person, very fast and he is going to have a strong season in Moto2 this year, where he hopefully will win the title which would be the dream situation. I am really pleased to announce that Jonas will join us before our home GP in Le Mans. It may be difficult to predict what will happen, as some riders adapt instantly whilst others need some time, but I am certain that he will be fast, have fun and become a strong Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider. I’d like to welcome him and I want to assure Jonas that the whole team and Yamaha Factory Racing are very happy that he will join us and for sure, everyone will do their best to assist him in moving forward in the top class.”