Jonas Folger Joins Tech 3 In MotoGP For 2017

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.”

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Pol's outbursts seem quite strange in light of his excellent performances this year. He is having one of the best (if not the best) seaons he's ever had in MotoGP, yet he seems unbelivably negative about his team, bike and manufacturer.

Does he really think he could go faster on a Honda or Ducati, when some of the fastest guys in the world are struggling on those bikes? 

I just don't quite understand the thinking here. Poncharal rightly stated that the M1 Tech3 has been given this year is the closest to the factory bikes they've ever had. This is Pol's best chance of demonstrating his abilities. He should just put his head down and get to work, instead of whining about a lack of Yamaha support.

Being hotheaded has its ups and downs it seems.

Herve claims the Tech3 bikes are the closest to the factory bikes they have ever been every year. Just because he's smiling when he says it doesn't make it true.

that actually makes more sense than anything :-)

Thanks rsciandphi, you have reminded me that I keep seeing this comment "Poncharal rightly stated that the M1 Tech3 has been given this year is the closest to the factory bikes they've ever had."

Plus the fact that both riders have been in the same team on the same bike for a number of years, I would have expected more so and I then ask myself so why don't their results reflect this. Is it their slow adaptation to the tyres? Do they have to do their own work with the spec software? Or is it just a high number of Ducatis pushing them back into a more realistic position that reflects their abilities?

Anyone got an insight?

Both Espargaro and Smith blame the changes made to MotoGP. At Jerez, said "this sport is all about number crunching." He then pointed out that at Tech 3, he and Espargaro have 1 data guy each. In the factory Yamaha team, they have 2 data guys each, plus 7 more engineers in the Yamaha truck.

It is obvious this year that a lot of riders and teams are struggling, with the electronics and the tires. This is made much worse by the fact that Michelin keep changing the tires. It has made it hard to find a baseline and get a grip on the 2016 season. Finding a baseline set up is a lot easier when you have a lot of technicians and engineers working on the data and figuring out where the problems are.

I expect the satellite teams to be a lot closer next year, as the teams will have a much better idea of the direction they need to go in with the bike. But right now, the factory teams have an advantage.

Earlier this year the story was the Tech 3 riders have one data geek.............. between them ;)

Since Dorna now have Folger for the German market, does that mean that Bradl is on his way out at Aprilia?

Similar question for Zarco, Baz and the French market, although Zarco doesn't have a full MotoGP contract yet.

Bradl is the younger of the two current Aprilia riders, and if Bradl and Bautista are roughly equal in performance, I can see Aprilia keeping Bradl (or perhaps signing an Italian rider). Bradl is at Aprilia on merit, not on passport, just as Folger is at Tech 3. I guess both would stay in MotoGP. 

Poncharal has long chased after Jonas Folger. This signing is 100% merit. Poncharal would have signed Folger even if he had been Spanish.

Hello, just wondering, you say Poncharal was "hoping to get him into MotoGP in 2014, but the German was in the middle of a two-year deal", but Folger's contract with AGR only started in 2014. Do you mean he was trying to sign him in 2014 FOR 2015? Or that he was wanting him to race in GP in 2014?

Sorry, that wasn't clear. Yes, Poncharal was talking to Folger during 2014 about a MotoGP ride in 2015. But as you point out, 2014 was the first year of Folger's contract with AGR, and he could not get out of the second year.

Bradl flattered to deceive on the Honda, and has generally been beaten on race day by Bautista. With Lowes coming to the team, I suspect that will be it for Bradl in MotoGP.

Bradl joined Aprilia on August 1st, 2015:

Points in 2015 (last eight races): Bradl 8 (finished only two races) vs Bautista 18 (finished seven races)

Points in 2016 (four races so far): Bradl 17 vs Bautista 14

Is this called "domination"? Did Bradl have to adapt to a new team/bike in the middle of the 2015 season?

what Bradl, Tech 3 and pretty much all the satellite teams are demonstrating is that just because you give a perfectly good space shuttle to a small African country, that doesn't put them in the space race.

Unfortunately (IMHO) it is the nature of the bikes at the moment where even if you have a Factory-spec bike, without Factory spec support and personnel it is virtually impossible to extract anything like Factory level performance.   

Sadly when the powers that be decreed the recent technological "reset" they wimped out on taking a big enough step to get out of the technological quagmire the smaller teams are now trapped in.  Without Factory resources they are pretty much just floundering, hoping for the Factories to eventually throw them a line. 

It's one aspect of the sport I'm really not happy with, and it's why Vinales should absolutely make the jump to Yamaha.  Never again will we see a Schwantz-like effort where a rider can make up for a bike that isn't quite there.  Unfortunately Vinales is too young to realise that Suzuki have a loooooong history of building bikes that aren't quite there and I fear that trend isn't about to be broken.

Does this announcement now make official Tech-3's status as a 'Pay-Rider' team? Their hiring of Smith never made any sense to me, and now Jonas' contract confirms it: this team makes 'accommodations' for the powers-that-be in MotoGP - monetary, political and nationalistic all.

Espargaro has seen the writing on the wall and knows he has already been dumped by Yamaha. That's why he has been behaving in a completely irrational manner. He got one more year in the premier-class than he should have anyway (this year) and the amount of savings to be had in crash damage alone is worth cutting him loose for.

When you stop and consider the talent waiting in the wings, and being passed over for the guys actually getting the rides, it's astonishing and sad even. Folger over Rins? Right. But I guess this at least lays the theory put out by someone recently that a RedBull rider could not easily fit into a Monster outfit to rest.

Firstly: pay riders. Hervé Poncharal pays the wage of every MotoGP rider who rides for him, unless they are contracted directly to Yamaha. Smith finished 6th in the championship last year. If that doesn't make sense to you, then I suggest you go back and check the results.

Secondly, Alex Rins: Poncharal would love nothing more than to have Rins in his team. Rins is holding out, refusing to sign for a satellite team. Rins believes that his best chance of success in MotoGP is signing to race in a factory team, not in a satellite team on a factory contract (which would be the case with Tech 3, paid for by Yamaha). Poncharal signed Folger ahead of Rins because Rins is not available. Yet.

Thirdly, just because you don't understand the signing, it doesn't mean that there is some kind of dark conspiracy putting riders in a particular seat. Folger is very highly rated by everyone in the MotoGP paddock, with only Rins and Lowes rated higher (and possibly Zarco). None of the others are available, or willing to sign for Tech 3. 

Interesting comment this "Folger is very highly rated by everyone in the MotoGP paddock, with only Rins and Lowes rated higher (and possibly Zarco)".  Seems oddly dismissive of the man who dominated the Moto2 championship. Care to expand on your thinking for us? 

Tech 3 stated that they want a rookie in their team. Alex Lowes from the Superbikes is not up to par.

So you look at the top Moto2 guys: Zarco is entangled with Suzuki. Sam Lowes is signed at Aprilia. Rins wants into a factory team. Morbidelli is bound at MarcVDS. Alex Marquez is Ralf Schumacher. :) Folger is available.

So I'd rather sign Folger now than hold out for a meager 10% chance on Rins until August. By that time Folger would have signed at KTM and Herve would be left holding his, ahem, pen. :-)

Who said anything about 'dark'? What didn't make sense to me David (and sorry if you have a soft spot for Brad) was the signing as based on his accomplishments, at the time, that earned him the seat in the first place. It's easy to say look what he did last year with the benefit of hindsight, but at the time of Brad's signing, it made no sense based on what he had achieved. Purely on results, he didn't belong there. (But he had the right passport, I guess, no?) And that 6th place? That was Tech 3 more than Smith IMO. He just kept his head long and consistently enough to get the result in the end that the team was capable of - and always was since running the M1. That seat is very, very desirable, and I believe great results - like Bradley's last year - and challenging consistently for 4th, 5th and 6th - every race - is entirely possible. Every race.

It is true that Herve Poncharal had a soft spot for Smith, which is why he signed him to a three-year deal, two years in Moto2 and the third year in MotoGP. What Smith did to deserve the MotoGP ride was comprehensively beat his teammate (112 points to Xavier Simeon's 23), and be competitive on the Tech 3 Moto2 bike which was clearly inferior to the Kalexes and Suters others were on. Tech 3 had a plan for Smith to go to MotoGP before he had even ridden in Moto2.

At the time Smith moved up to MotoGP, there were several British riders already in MotoGP: Cal Crutchlow was in his third year in MotoGP, and Michael Laverty was on the PBM CRT machine. Crutchlow was highly competitive, and so there was no need for another British rider based solely on passport.

Just because a signing doesn't make sense to you, doesn't mean there isn't a good reason for it. Some signings make no sense to me, but then I realize that a team has invested at the very least hundreds of thousands of euros in a rider (if not in his salary, then at least in the support structure which surrounds him), and they are not going to throw that money away. Rider signings don't always work out as planned, but there is usually some kind of solid logic behind the signing.

All of which is further to my point, David. What I said originally was that the Tech 3 team "makes 'accommodations'... monetary, political and nationalistic all" - and what you are saying in response just confirms this (for me, at least). And at risk of alienating you (I hope not) I will now ask: who, exactly, is Xavier Simeon? And does two really add up to several? I do love your work. Please keep it up. Kindly pardon my innately candid nature.

Xavier Simeon is the Belgian rider who won the Moto2 race at the Sachsenring in 2015, has racked up four career podiums in Moto2, and was FIM Superstock 1000 champion in 2009.

I've always been more a Redding supporter than Smith but he won 125 races, fought for a title there and then had some really good rides on the piece of crap Tech 3 Moto2 bike. He got the ride based on what Herve knew he was doing on their inferior bike. 

I believe that for someone to get a factory ride they generally have to win a championship or two first but for other seats it's not always as black and white as pure results. 

People talk like Bradl and especially Bautista are, and have always been, duds. They were podium threats on the Honda in one period and Bautista came up as one of the four last great 250cc generation. Some riders (Leon Haslam being the worst) get constant opportunities over and over again seemingly forever, others get undeservedly dumped. Aprilia have two highly capable riders that the results will probably never show again. Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa are the only outright obvious choices to be signed for anything. There's a lot more to take in to account for everyone else. 

The more I learn about the business of racing, the more I feel it's a wonder anybody is in the business at all.

Consider a "space" (to borrow a Jensen Beeler-ism) where, in a good half-decade, only twenty percent of the participants succeed on a basis regular enough to keep their jobs for more than a couple of years. A business where multi-million dollar deals must be made on a deadline, based only on the hope of what somebody might do. A business where a spot of rain or a tire crossing a curb an inch too far inside can utterly destroy an investment in material and personnel to the tune of high six figures or more.

We, the audience, naturally focus on the Aliens and the Big Teams and make our comparisons based on what they do and how they perform, but truthfully the base of the pyramid is made of people who, no matter how hard they try, and how intensely they manage and groom their careers, often bust their butts for years just to net a couple of lucky wins and some repeat appearances in the pack's upper half. And those people are all supported and paid for by an army of supporters who must be there for passion, because they're sure as hell not there for certain returns on investment.

I'm also thinking of discussions last year about how racing also attracts bad businesspeople and shady managers who show up, scam around for a while, and disappear... It seems to me that racing has a disturbing amount in common with poorly-regulated capital market dealing. (Maybe we should be thankful that Lorenzo isn't hawking Home Equity Loans in the post-race interviews!)

I think this is a good signing. Folger has shown flashes of brilliance but hasn't had a steady team around him yet. I think he will do well.

Can't remember if it was a wildcard or just a mid-season addition due to age restrictions, but I vaguely recall Jonas Folger bursting onto the scene in a wet race, riding like a madman, and maybe even leading at one point before crashing out?  It was a performance very much like Adam Norrodin's near-second place at Argentina: Awesome, then tragic.

Or maybe my memory is a bit TOO fuzzy, that was actually his tenth race, it was dry, and Folger crashed out on lap three--whatever; I'll stick with the legend I've built up in my head.  The race I'm thinking of was the first time I noticed Jonas Folger, and I've been a fan ever since.