Marc VDS Press Release: Michael Bartholémy Responds To Criticism Of Moto3 Project, Says No Team Orders In Moto2

The Marc VDS Racing team has been at the center of debate in MotoGP's support classes recently. First, there was the affair with Jack Miller and his contract with the Marc VDS team, and then at Assen, the team faced a hail of criticism from the Belgian and Dutch media over the level of support offered to Moto3 rider Livio Loi.

The team's response has been to issue press releases. On Friday, a press release was issued stating categorically that the team has a binding contract with Jack Miller. And today, in the team's Sachsenring preview, team manager Michael Bartholémy sets out in detail precisely what bike Livio Loi had been given to ride at Assen. The team had been disappointed in the progress of the young Belgian rider, but Loi was insistent that the Kalex KTM was no longer a competitive package. The team had demanded Loi lived up to the results set out in the contract they have with him. Loi countered that if he had a factory KTM, he would be competitive. Marc VDS purchased a KTM, but a factory bike was not available. Instead, they purchased a production RC250R, and then fitted it with all of the available factory parts to bring it as close as possible to a factory bike. Whether Loi will continue with the team after the summer break remains to be seen. In the press release, Bartholémy makes it clear that the project cannot continue if there is no improvement.

The Marc VDS Racing team press release preview, packed with more interesting details than most press releases, appears below:


Michael Bartholemy: We can’t afford to be complacent…

Gosselies, Belgium – 7 July 2014: It’s a short hop across the Belgian border and into Germany for round nine of the Moto2 World Championship, which takes place this weekend at the Sachsenring, the shortest circuit on the calendar.

Sachsenring also marks the halfway point in a season that has seen the Marc VDS Racing Team dominate the Moto2 World Championship. Between them Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio have won all but two of the eight races contested so far and, with the exception of Le Mans - where Kallio won and Rabat joined him on the podium in third - it’s been a Marc VDS rider that has started every race from pole position.

By anyone’s standards it’s been an impressive start to the season for the team but, for Team Principal Michael Bartholemy, it’s simply the culmination of five years of hard work.

“To get to where we are this season has taken a lot of hard work,” declared Bartholemy. “When we came to Moto2 in 2010 we were the new kids on the block; nobody knew us and attracting riders was difficult because we were an unknown quantity. We started that season with two riders who’d been passed over by the other teams but, just three years later, we were in a position to fight for the championship with one of them, namely Scott Redding.

“Now we’ve proved that not only can we win races, but we’re also capable of fighting for the championship with both riders. As you can imagine, we’ve had a lot of riders knocking on our door to talk about 2015, and that makes me proud of what the team has achieved.

Whatever happens at the Sachsenring this weekend, the Marc VDS Racing Team will head into the summer break with Rabat leading the championship, but Bartholemy is adamant that the team won’t be resting on their laurels.

“While it’s true we now have a big lead in the championship, we were in a similar position last year and look how that turned out. We need to keep working, to keep pushing to give Tito and Mika exactly what they need to win races. We can’t afford to be complacent, or to ride for points, because one mistake, one retirement and we could see that lead disappear overnight.

“With both riders so competitive this season I’ve been asked many times about team orders. Yes, we’ve spoken to the riders and told them we wouldn’t be very pleased if they took each other out of a race, but there are no team orders. They are both racing for the championship and we’ll continue to allow them to do so.

But while the team’s efforts have been rewarded with success after success in Moto2 this season, the same isn’t true of Moto3. 17-year-old Belgian, Livio Loi, is now in his second season with the team but the results, other than his fourth place in Argentina, have fallen well short of both his and the team’s expectations.

“It’s true that our success in Moto2 hasn’t been reflected in Moto3, but that’s not through a lack of effort on the part of the team,” explains Bartholemy. “This year Livio has been very vocal in his criticism of the Kalex-KTM so, for Assen, we made the decision to switch bikes to KTM, just to see if it brought the improvement that Livio himself expected.

“We took a standard KTM RC250R to Assen on Wednesday and worked through the night to upgrade it. We fitted the KTM Moto3 World Championship motor, the latest WP suspension and almost the entire KTM catalogue of factory parts. When the bike rolled out of the pit box for free practice on Thursday it was as close to factory spec as we could get it. I doubt even KTM could have spotted the differences without reducing the bike to its component parts and measuring everything.

“It wasn’t until qualifying that we saw an improvement in Livio’s lap time, but by then it was too late. He qualified 30th, his worst performance of the season, and then went on to finish 25th in the race. It was disappointing, both for Livio and the team.

“What is even more disappointing is how much criticism the team came in for after Assen. We’ve been criticised for going with the Kalex-KTM in the first place and we’ve been criticised for trying the KTM option in a bid to help Livio rediscover his confidence. It seems we are unable to do right for doing wrong in the eyes of some people.

“But the situation is very clear. We’re in Moto3 to race and Livio needs to start producing the goods and getting the results that he, the bike and the team are capable of. If the results don’t come after all this effort then we need to take a long hard look at the feasibility of continuing in Moto3 when there is no improvement and we’re finishing out of the points every week.

“Unfortunately, that’s the harsh reality of the situation, when racing at this level costs more than half-a-million Euros a season. Time is running out, so now we need to see some action…”

The Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland gets underway with free practice for all three classes on the morning of Friday 11th July.

Round Number: 

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If only all press releases were as open and clear as this one, but maybe it's a bit more easy for MarcvdS, since they have no sponsors they can offend.

I've seen Livio coming up through minibikes, I always thought he is the most talented rider of his generation. His struggle with the Kalex-KTM was not easy, it's not an easy bike to get 90% right.

It's fantastic to see MarcvdS going this far by buying a KTM. I also make a deep bow to the team, that worked overnight to turn the stock bike into a close-to-factory bike. But, building good bikes is not Lego. You can't expect Livio to be quick on it right away. One for him adjusting to the new bike, and two for the bike only just being assembled, which gives you a rough package of what will be a racing bike in the future. Will be, like Livio will be competative (again).

This is undoubtedly a great press release- normally they are fairly tedious but this was fascinating.

One thing I completely missed was the "hail of criticism" talked about by Michael Bartholemy and in the article above. I would love to know from what circles this criticism came. I tried a Google but nothing came up.

The thing that strikes me here (apart from the evident frustration) is that they brought a brand new un-tested bike to a MGP round. Wouldn't you go to a your test track first, set the bike up, and judge it against your 'old' bike and data as to whether you run it in a race?
Seems odd... Do you have Loi's number to get his perspective David?

Bartholemy seems to be tied up with a lot of 'office politics' at the moment. He still has a nice job though!

I thought I'd reply to this, as it's an interesting point you made about the bike being untested.

Disclaimer: I'm the Marc VDS Press Officer!

We decided to go with the KTM option at Assen because it was becoming increasingly obvious that Livio had no confidence in the Kalex-KTM. This isn't to say that the Kalex-KTM isn't a good bike - after all, it did finish 5th in the championship in the hands of Jonas Folger in 2013 - but Livio was convinced that it was the bike that was holding him back.

The time between Barcelona and Assen was short, but we managed to source a production KTM RC250R and the necessary upgrade parts, which we collected from Austria on the Wednesday ahead of Assen. The bike was then transported to Assen and rebuilt overnight using the upgrade parts (which were not limited to brakes and suspension as some have suggested elsewhere).

There was simply no time to test ahead of Assen and it was felt by all parties that it was better to take a chance on the KTM than to continue with Livio complaining about the Kalex-KTM. Obviously, for the team, it would have meant less work and less cost to continue with the Kalex-KTM, but there was little point in doing this.

We have good contacts within the paddock, so we pretty much knew which base setting would work on the bike and, as it turned out, we weren't so far off.

It's also worth noting that we had no technical/mechanical issues with the bike at all over the Assen weekend.

Assen was an opportunity for Livio to adapt to the KTM. We weren't expecting him to finish in the top ten, but then we also weren't expecting him to qualify 30th and finish the race 25th.

Livio will be back on the KTM this weekend at the Sachsenring, so we will see how he goes once he's had a bit more time on the bike.

If David wants to talk to Livio to get the other side of the story, I'm happy to set up an interview this weekend at the Sachsenring...

Great that you guys are sharing so much info. Although after seeing the candor in your press release and now your response here, it seems that this is mainly about sending the right signals to all interested parties that now is the time for Livio to "put up or shut up". Now everyone will understand that the team has done everything possible before you take...more "extreme" decisions.

Can you give some more details mr.Wheeler, why Livio is so unhappy with his bike?? I'm very curious about this because as you mentioned last year the bike came in fifth.

Livio's biggest complaint about the Kalex-KTM was with the front end. Either he had no feeling with it or, if he did have the feeling, it wouldn't turn in and hold a line through the corners, pushing him wide and stopping him from getting on the gas early.

But, Livio has a very static riding style and doesn't move his bodyweight around very much on the bike, which may well be exacerbating the problem.

If you look at all the fast guys in Moto3 they all use their bodyweight on the bike, but Livio looks like he's channeling Mike Hailwood he moves so little!

There are other issues, of course, as there always are, but by going with the KTM it allows us to see if the main issue really was the bike, as Livio claims, or if the problems run deeper...

And there is this crazy word feeling again, Always when there are troubles the riders talk about feeling with the bike, can you tell me something about how the team(s) are working and dealing with this problem to solve these things?? Is it visible on the computer??

Thank you Ian - that's really interesting background and your openness about what is going on here is really appreciated. I'm pleased that the bike seems basically OK and I hope that Livio can get his head around the new bike and make it work for him and you.
We all know that there is lots of 'stuff' going on in the paddock and the teams willingness to share some of the background in an even-handed way is a very positive move. I hope that all press officers take such a perspective and put the material out here for us in a similar style.
Keep up the good work on and off track!

I wanted to give my gratitude to you for taking the time and posting on this forum.

What I find remarkable is that the team went to great lengths for its rider. Putting a bike together, on such a short notice, must have cost a pretty penny, both in parts and manpower hours. I hope for the team that this type of dedication will attract additional talent to your outfit.

Can you comment on what exactly is not up to "Factory" spec on the machine?

Again, thank you for taking the time to post.

There was a significant cost involved, both in terms of money and effort, in securing the KTM at short notice and then upgrading it to as close to the factory spec as we could get it, but it was felt that this cost would be worthwhile if it allowed Livio the chance to realise his full potential.

Already we've changed Livio's crew chief, his data engineer, his training, his approach and his time schedule in a bid to help him, but to no avail. Changing the bike is pretty much the last resort, but at least we'll know where we stand if it works, or even if it doesn't.

I don't want to go into too many details, but the bike is about 95% of the factory bike in terms of performance and more than capable of finishing in the points.

While there may be a lot of "criticism" levied at the team for the Miller contract situation and the Livio issues, this has actually made me more aware of the team, and specifically the professional manner in which it is handling a couple of very difficult situations.

For me, a contract is a contract, even if it is abbreviated and doesn't have all the details of a "comprehensive" agreement. If a party signs a contract (or even shakes on it), they should be knowledgeable about what they are agreeing to and be prepared to make all the commitments. You guys seem to have your contract with Miller and will either get a very promising rider on the Moto2 team for next year or a few euros for your troubles.

As for your description of the Livio situation, thanks again for sharing these details. Great info! You guys seem to have done everything you can and are giving your rider every opportunity to deliver...ah the drama if he doesn't perform, although I know your team would prefer that he clicks with the bike and rattles off a couple top 10s. I will take much greater interest in this aspect of the Moto3 proceedings this weekend and in the team in general.

Good luck! The more professional teams are usually the ones at the pointy end, aren't they...

Thanks for the insight Ian. Rare is the instance we get this level of transparency into the paddock. All the best to Livio and hoping he gets his head wrapped around this soon.

(And here I was thinking you'd posted under an assumed name about Tito being the only challenger to Marquez under the Silly Season post!)

I do not know the performance history of Livio however, I can assume that both the team and Livio believe that he is capable of finishing at a minimum of in the points and from what I can gather, for sure in the top ten.

Can you provide insight as to how these conditions are agreed upon? By that I mean is that something the team owner demands (perhaps too harsh a word) or is it secondary sponsors that require this? We often do not get to hear about the back end (perhaps another poor choice of words lol) dealings that happen within the teams, and perhaps that is for a reason.

I am still amazed at the fact the team went out and purchased, from scratch, a brand new bike for their rider. I don't remember ever hearing anything like this in the grand prix category before. Kudos to the Marc VDS team for that and you've definitely gained a fan for it.

Welcome and thanks Ian. Congrats on your wonderful Moto2 team, you folks are exemplary. Best of Luck w the contractual sticky wicket, you are sure to be a busy bee for a while.

Don't set up any pictures w Jack and any ham, and hurry and and duck here because you can count down the posts until we demand technical data AND your analysis re how it directly applies to how Stoner would stand up w Marquez.

HAH! :)
Cheers mate.

Where exactly does Jack Miller think he's gonna end up? Not riding a factory MotoGP bike I can tell you! There are not a lot of desirable seats to slot into, and I wouldn't put him in front of Aleix Espargaro, Andrea Iannone, Rabat, Vinales, etc. There are a lot worse places to be than in Moto2 with Marc VDS! I'm sure if he was having a nightmare season he would be crying foul if Marc VDS was issuing press releases stating that they had no contract. I think his ego has been inflated as of late due to his "desirability", and he's forgetting who negotiated the ride that he currently has now.

Clearly there are teams who would interested in Miller for Mot2 and maybe MotoGP.
You assume he's spruiking himself for a better ride. I have not seen anything to support that.
Here's what actually started the kerfuffle, from the interview on the Ajo Motorsport site:
"These last few weeks there has been much talk about your future. Are you already thinking about next season? Are you worried about it?
Not at all. My main goal right now is to fight for the Moto3 World Championship this year. It is a challenge for which I have been working very hard and making many sacrifices in my career. KTM has given us all a great bike with which to achieve the title. I am 100% focused on it. I don’t want to think about what will happen next year; I cannot afford to think about anything else other than this season. I wish this was something only spoken about after the season ends, although I know that this isn’t possible. But all that is my manager’s job, not mine. I only know that I have nothing decided for next year. I have no contract for the future, so we are completely open and free to negotiate.”

That's a simple interview answer and yet you have converted that into his ego getting "inflated".
I don't hear that, I hear a simple message about contracts and a redirection to discuss with his manager, not him, so he can focus on the current season.
If you are constructing something different from that, that's your internal interpretation.

Sounds like the typical p.r. interview answer to me. I'm basing my assumption along the lines that he has been requested by VDS to meet or at least stop ignoring them. Which if you read between the lines it sounds like he's shopping around. Otherwise why push it off. All it would take is at the very least a phone call.

... and this time it's me. As a spectator with absolutely no connections in the sport I've enjoyed reading the MarcVDS side of the story, but I have to say that if I was Livio's manager I'd be less than happy to have the team airing their views on me so openly. It reads as though the team has had enough of Livio whinging, is far from convinced the problem is the bike, and thinks he could be doing a bit more to make the whole shebang work as it should. If I was Livio, or more to the point his manager, I'd expect those opinions to be aired behind closed doors and if we couldn't arrive at a mutually happy place, we start making arrangements to part company without either of us crapping on the other. Because all too often things look different with a bit of time and distance and no-one ever really benefits from a public spat. And if we did come to a mutually agreeable solution (as appears to have been the case here), I'd expect the details of how and why to be saved for autobiographies.

Whenever I read or hear something like Ian's press release, because that's pretty much what it is, I can't help thinking - why are they sharing this with me? what are they hoping to gain? - and usually come to the conclusion it's the upper hand. And if I was Livio's manager I'd be slightly cautious about having him taking up that offer of an interview with David. He wouldn't be the first employee in the world to hang himself when given the opportunity.

Just my perspective!

sides to a story. And many different perspectives.
I see no 'side' to Marc VDS' initial press release and Ian Wheeler made it very clear he was a Marc VDS person when he responded and gave further insight here.
Perhaps there are people who manipulate and misinform, but as I see things I prefer to take what I'm told at face value and, whilst I test it against what I know or feel about something, I don't automatically assume I'm being manipulated.
It's called giving people the benefit of the doubt and the world would be a happier place with more of it.
Regarding the openness about Loi's performance and 'issues', MarcVDS will not be the first or last to talk about an athletes performance and the spectators of everything from football to crown green bowling via this site have lots to say about participants performance. Much of it is in less polite terms than Ian Wheeler used.
Loi might be uncomfortable about things being said, but he has to admit that something isn't right and his performance is below his and the teams hopes and expectations. The team bought him a new bike, worked their hearts out to get it ready - that's not the action of a cynical, manipulative team.
Loi is working in the paddock amongst his competitors - you can bet his performance gets a lot more analysis and discussion there, and with a few 6 letter adjectives. He can hold his head up. He just needs to ask himself all the necessary questions and be honest with his answers.
Riding style is obviously one issue - being compared to Mike Hailwood isn't a compliment in today's world where technique has to be refined as much as a bike is honed. Being able to adopt those contortions whilst travelling on a bike at high speed, modulating controls with all your hands and feet, and keeping a smooth, flowing momentum requires particular body fitness and stamina. I don't recall a sack of potatoes winning a world championship whilst I've been watching.
You can be negative about all this or positive - if Loi or any sportsman at this level cannot take some criticism and turn it positive then he's not in the right place and should move on to something less challenging.
I hope he stays. He can look at Rossi and see that even the best have to adapt if they are to achieve their goals.
I also hope that David is at the Sachsenring and does the interview.

Motomann thanks for asking a question that got an answer from Ian Wheeler (thanks for the input by the way). All this has made me look up races and results from Moto3 this year, (which I usually watch as an afterthought).

It may take some time for Loi to adjust to the new bike, but there is not much more the team can do for him. There are plenty of teams that will tell riders to take a hike, (or go get a therapist like Ducati offered Melandri), before they raise a finger to change anything. The team just did all they can do on the financial side. All that is left is adjusting the team and rider to the new equipment. There are always two sides to a story, but history shows that most teams do not do that much for a rider, especially one that is in a lower class without MULTIPLE world championships.

It may be a PR move but, it is pretty hard to argue that the team is not listening or trying to help when this big of a change is being made for the rider IMHO. Now there is so much more to look forward to watching in Germany! Now I will be watching times for every session from Moto3 to Motogp instead of just Moto2 and Motogp.

This is why I too like this forum, and thank you both for polite disagreement. I take your points, both of you, and readily agree with much of what you say - MarcVDS do seem to have bent over backwards for Loi, but for me, airing their doubts about his ability or suitability just isn't something you do in my world, much as I'd sometimes like to. Maybe I've spent too much time in management and become too much of a suit though.

That said, you can be sure I'll be reading if Loi does choose to share all!

It seems a shame that we are talking about the performance of a 17 year old lad not being up to scratch for a world championship class?

I guess this is the downside of having all of these youngsters catapulted into the public eye when they are really too young and not fully developed either physically, mentally or in a sporting sense.

Having said this, someone has chosen to put their kid in the firing line, he is obviously enjoying the limelight at a young age. But for some it is over before their life has begun, due mainly to failure and non achievement.
It must be hard living up to expectations at such a young age, Livio Loi is obviously talented or Marc VDS would never have taken him on. I guess he has to learn to change a lot of things and adapt, an easier task at his age I would hope? I just feel a lot of sympathy for the likes of him.

That's a true and sobering observation. On the other hand, the naievete, arrogance and stubborness of youth are often the key ingredients in success.

He's one lucky dude.
He must also be talented - you don't get there if you can't ride the bikes.
I remember being at a track day and after setting up things went for a wander to see who was there. Got talking to a guy that I thought was something to do with an ex-WSB champ because there was this mega Winnebago, with full self-levelling, a matching 20'/6m trailer equipped with tyre-changing equipment etc.
Turns out I'm talking to the guy who rides the bike ( a top spec 1000 from what I could see) and the outfit was bought for him by his dad.
He had hired another (not the ex-WSB guy) ex-GP500 racer to show him the ropes for a planned national superstock effort next year.....
I was faster and I'm not fast.....
Even as an older guy with grown-up kids my thought was "I wish my dad could've bought me stuff like that...".
He was lucky, I'm lucky. Loi is lucky. There's nothing to feel sorry about. If he walks away (which I hope isn't the outcome); he's had a fantastic time!!

It's the best of a select few. Thank you for the good quality discussion. It would be boring if we all agreed. I learn from the posts/discussions as well as the blog and it's a highlight amongst the fun of bike racing.

I'm really curious to see what Livio is going to do in the race... and even more what's going to be said and done after the race. 29th position for Livio on the grid really can't be what everyone was hoping for :(

Previous comments have been talking about it being bad talks about Livio, about VDS's open criticism of him. IMO, in a normal company, those talks should indeed be held behind closed doors... that's nobody's business and if a company isn't happy about an employee's performance, that's between the two of them. However, MotoGP isn't a normal industry. All people, riders and teams, are public figures and everybody is talking about them, criticising them and all is written down on websites, in magazines, papers and the like. It is normal that either party can defend themselves and explain the situation from their point of view.

I was a big fan from the beginning, both of Livio and Marc VDS (blame my Belgian roots), and I do like to see both succeed. It just hasn't been happening in Moto3 and I can't say I blame Marc VDS. They have put in every possible effort for the team to succeed and it's up to Livio to show that he can. He's had his 4th place in Argentina, so it shows that it's not just the bike. With the Moto2 team battling for the championship, 2nd year in a row, it's not due to the technical expertise in the team, and now that the bike has pretty much the same specs as the leading Moto3 team, it's not to the bike either... there's not much left to say then.
It is noticeable that Livio has a different riding style (old style) and I expect from a rider in a world championship that he would either adjust his riding style to the bike (e.g. 46) or make the bike work with his riding style (e.g. 93). Neither option is working for Livio so far, so I honestly can't blame them for throwing in the towel in Moto3. I'd much rather see Marc VDS spend that money on a MotoGP bike in 2015 or 2016 than keeping to sponsor a good rider that just isn't up to par with the other players in the field.