Loris Baz has finally found his place in MotoGP. After being signed and then disposed of by the Aspar team, the Forward Racing team finally announced that they have signed the 21-year-old Frenchman for the 2015 season.
Baz will line up alongside Stefan Bradl on board the Open class Forward Yamaha. The Forward Yamaha will be close to a 2014 spec satellite Yamaha M1, but using the Open software.
Baz’s path into the premier class has not been easy. He was in talks with Aspar for several weeks, eventually signing a precontract which depended on Aspar not being able to sign Scott Redding. Once that deadline passed, Aspar the refused to honor the precontract, citing Baz’s height – said to be 1.92m – as a reason to reject him.
When problems appeared with the Aspar deal, Baz turned to the Forward team, who were more willing to overlook his height. At a press conference at Aragon, where Forward and Yamaha presented their 2015 project, Yamaha boss told the press that he could not see Baz’s height being a problem on the Yamaha.
There is good reason to suspect that Baz will find it easier on the Yamaha than he would have on the Honda. At Misano, several riders were asked for their opinions of the affair, and of tall riders. As he so often does, Bradley Smith expressed it most eloquently.
When asked if being tall was an impediment to racing in MotoGP, Smith said that it depended on the bike. “If you’re going to ride a Honda, yes. If you’re going to ride a Yamaha, the Yamaha has been designed around a slightly taller rider, Valentino [Rossi] and Colin [Edwards] back in the day. So it fits.”
In Smith’s opinion, it would still be more difficult than for a smaller rider, however. “Road racing has always been like that, it’s always been a smaller rider. In the current way of MotoGP, we haven’t really seen big riders.”
The problem was mainly about the package which bike designers build, and as most riders are small, bikes are built for smaller riders, rather than tall riders. Tall riders would always face problems, Smith said.
“Because you’re adapting. This sport isn’t about adapting, it’s about designing a product and putting someone fast on that product, and staying within a box of design parameters. If Honda designed a bike around Loris Baz, Leon Camier, Scott Redding, the bike would be a lot different than designed around Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez.”
With Baz now signed to Forward Racing, the chances of Mike Di Meglio retaining his seat at Avintia have grown slimmer. Dorna were known to be keen to have a fast young Frenchman riding in MotoGP, and had been offering to provide assistance for Baz in the series.
With Baz signed, support for Di Meglio is no longer necessary, and Di Meglio will have to persuade Avintia to retain him on the strength of his performance, rather than his passport.
Photo: Kawasaki Racing
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.