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.

It was not easy, because he was not sure at one point if he wanted to do one more year in Moto3 and win the championship. I think that when he saw Martin moving up he said, “If he’s moving, I have to move too.” But then he had a contract, a two-year deal with Prüstel, his current team. So we had to negotiate. We had to think. In the end, everybody agreed, everybody’s happy. KTM, Prüstel, me, Tech3, VR46 because they are managing him and the rider.

But I’m so happy because I believe so much in Marco. He reminds me a lot of Valentino when he started. Today [the Moto3 race at the Red Bull Ring, which Bezzecchi won - DE] proved everything I said right. I’m really excited and I’m really happy to have him with us because he’s a very young, fast rider, but he’s also for what I know a very charming young man. He’s interesting and nice guy.

The other guy is Philipp Öttl. He’s fast. For sure he’s not as exciting on paper as Marco Bezzecchi. But when I signed Jonas Folger everybody told me, “You made a mistake.” I’m not saying Philipp is going to do what Jonas did last year, but I believe Philipp is fast. He’s a bit I think too tall and too heavy for Moto3 right now. He won a race this year in Jerez which is not easy, to win a race in Moto3.

And again, like Marco, I really like the guy. I’ve known his father for many, many years. KTM and Red Bull are happy because he’s a German-speaking guy. If you look at the lineup of the Tech3 in MotoGP: Portugal [Miguel Oliveira], Malaysia [Hafizh Syahrin]. In Moto2 Italy [Marco Bezzecchi], Germany [Philipp Öttl]. So, I’m happy.

Q: How much influence did Red Bull and KTM have in the choice of riders? Were you completely free choosing?

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Bezecchi showed a lot in moto3 this year but we also got to see him facing adversity and disappointment, and he seems a little high-strung and fragile. Hopefully I'm wrong, because he's clearly talented. And maybe he can learn something from his Tech3 compatriots who all display more resiliency imo. 

I'm curious about the Yamaha situation, because for the last decade or so we've heard Herve singing from the same song sheet... "we are second string.... no updates... old bikes... yada yada".  Tech 3 leave and Petronas fill the vacuum and suddenly they are going to have one "A-Spec" bike, more or less equal to the factory team, updates perhaps a round behind the factory boys.  I do not recall this option EVER being mentioned in the Tech3 era, money or not.  Was it just that Petronas expected, demanded and ultimately had the dollars to back it up?  Was Herve too meek, or never well funded enough to be able to make the demand?

Merry Christmas all!

My guess is that the mess in the yamaha garage made them rethink the whole strategy and finally put more money and more resources in the satellite team. When you look back the two past seasons were such a disaster that Yamaha had to step up and make some changes...

On Poncharal side i think he overestimated Zarco's results and probably tried to strongarm Yamaha inyo something they did not want...

I'm guessing based on the many interviews Poncharal gave to French media - and his entourage too - which were very different from when he was talking to the rest of the press. He was often expressing discontent about not getting a fair treatment from Yamaha and, more often than not, pointing out that zarco was very good and deserved more support.and hinting that "someone" was barring their rise to success.

Again, i think that him (and Fellon too) saw in Zarco a form of leverage to ask for more. Sadly not understanding that Yamaha needed to touch rock bottom in order to wake up. 

If he had stayed he probably would have gotten a very good proposition.  But he preferred to secure a new long term deal with KTM- using again! Zarco as part of the deal. 

Funny how things turned out... When you look back Tech3 always had very good riders and very good results - Crutchllow, Dovi, Espargaro, Smith, to name a few... 

Let's just hope that KTM rises to the challenge. By the look of how well sorted seemed Ducati Honda and Suzuki (I'm still unsure and not too hopeful about yamaha) i think they are in for a very painful season



...that up until what, six or seven years ago, a rider could not move into the premiere class directly to a factory team, so Tech 3 got the top new Yamaha riders (e.g., Spies, et al) first. Somehow Dorna killed that rule, which by pure coincidence happened the moment Marquez arrived.

Actually, that "satelite team first" rule was a one year only rule... that affected only Ben... Dani, Jorge, Marc, et al, went directy to factory rides from 250's/moto2...

That was always a silly rule and it only applied for three seasons (10,11,12), Lorenzo, Hayden, Edwards and Bayliss all landed into factory teams. Honda may have pressed for it to be repealed but there were no discenting voices from the other teams, had they known exactly who that rookie would turn out to be Yamaha and Ducati might have put a fight.

interesting to hear Herve's thoughts but arguably would have been more interesting to have heard them 4 months ago when he made them..?