It has been a big weekend of news for KTM at Jerez. First, there was Pol Espargaro extending his contract. Then the factory KTM team announced they had signed Johann Zarco.
And now, the first seat at the KTM Tech3 team has been filled, with Miguel Oliveira moving up to MotoGP for 2019.
The Portuguese rider had been widely expected to make the move. Oliveira has progressed all the way through the KTM Red Bull project, from Moto3 to Moto2 and now up to MotoGP.
It shouldn’t come with much surprise to hear that the Tech3 squad will be making a change of machinery not only for the MotoGP class next season, but also in the Moto2 Championship as well, with the French team agreeing to ride exclusively on Austrian bikes in 2019.
Set to be a KTM satellite team in the MotoGP Championship next year, with the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike, Tech3 will also use KTM’s Moto2 race platform in the intermediate class next season.
One of the biggest dominoes of the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season has just fallen into place. Today, KTM announced that they have signed Johann Zarco to a two-year contract for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. That Zarco would leave the Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad had been widely anticipated, the only question being which factory team he would end up in. The Frenchman was an extremely hot property, after displaying blistering speed on the satellite Yamaha M1 in 2017. Zarco had offers from Suzuki, Repsol Honda, and KTM, though only Honda and KTM were in the frame for the Frenchman. Zarco and his management were still unhappy with the way Suzuki had treated the Frenchman, after the Japanese factory failed to honor a pre-contract Zarco had signed ahead of the 2017 season, choosing Alex Rins instead.
It has been an eventful couple of weeks for Yamaha. Apart from the expected hectic period of preseason testing, Yamaha agreed to a new two-year deal with Valentino Rossi. There was also the surprise announcement by Jonas Folger that he wouldn’t be racing in 2018, and working with Hervé Poncharal to find a replacement for the Tech3 team. More significantly, they also had to deal with the surprise announcement that Tech3 will be leaving Yamaha at the end of this season, and swapping to become a satellite for KTM from 2019 onwards. So journalists had plenty of questions for Lin Jarvis, the head of Yamaha Motor Racing, and Qatar was the first opportunity to ask him.
Qatar is always a strange place to kick off the MotoGP season: a windswept circuit in the middle of the desert (though not for long, as the suburbs of Doha are rapidly approaching the track), racing under the floodlights, around a circuit with just a single grandstand and a VIP pavilion.
It is an odd location with a weird atmosphere. The race feels surreal, part of a science fiction spectacular, an impression reinforced as you drive back to Doha afterwards, the huge Blade Runner-esque skyscrapers awash with ever-shifting patterns of blinking lights.
You would think that the season opener couldn’t get much odder, but series organizer Dorna has found a way. In response to complaints of dew forming after 9pm in the evening, rendering the track treacherous.
It was a shock to hear that the venerable Tech3 team would be leaving the Yamaha family, come the 2019 MotoGP season, after all Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal cut his teeth with Yamaha. But, once the news of his move sunk in, we are not surprised to hear that he is headed to KTM for the 2019 season, as was officially announced today (and rumored for well over a week). That is right, for the 2019 MotoGP Championship, the Tech3 team – one of the most regarded satellite teams in the GP Paddock – will be racing the KTM RC16 MotoGP race bike, with full-factory machines from Austria. That last caveat is likely the tipping point and main reason for Poncharal’s switch, with Tech3 long having to put-up with having the leftovers from the Yamaha Racing factory squad.
If you thought the 2019 MotoGP Silly Season was already in high gear, a bombshell announcement has just put it into overdrive. Today, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team announced that from 2019, they will be parting ways. Tech3 will no longer be a satellite Yamaha team. The split brings to an end an association of nearly 20 years with Yamaha. They first started in 1999 with Shinya Nakano and Olivier Jacque in 250cc, before switching to the premier class with the same pair in 2001. Tech3 has been a loyal partner for many years, giving up one seat to a factory-backed rider on a number of occasions, as occurred with Ben Spies, Colin Edwards, and Pol Espargaro. However, there had been a few signs of tension over the past few months.
As we published at the Indianapolis GP this past weekend, Colin Edwards’ time in the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage seemed to be coming to an end, as the veteran MotoGP racer and former-World Superbike Champion was linked to several other possibilities in WSBK and MotoGP for the 2012 season. Making his thoughts clear, Edwards believes there’s some value to the claiming rule team (CRT) formula, saying ”I think there’ll be tracks where it’s going to surprise some people.”
Finally releasing his plans for the 2012 season, Edwards announced today at the San Marino GP that he will race for the Italian NGM Forward Racing team, on a CRT bike, next season. While the team has been linked to a BMW/Suter motor and chassis, Edwards will use instead an R1 motor with a custom chassis. The preference right now is for Tech3’s Guy Coulon to make a chassis for the R1 motor, as the team did for its own Moto2 effort, but nothing has been finalized with the French MotoGP team.
Ben Spies clinched the MotoGP Rookie of the Year award while a racing at Phillip Island this weekend, adding another bullet point to the Texan’s impressive resumé, and achieving the next logical step in his GP career. Currently the highest ranking American in the MotoGP series, Spies holds a 11 point advantage over the Kentucky Kid Nicky Hayden. Both Americans have had a great season this year, and it will be exciting to watch the pair finish out the last two races of the season. Moving up to the factory Yamaha team for the 2011 season, Spies will play second fiddle to Jorge Lorenzo, the reigning MotoGP World Champion. We’ll have to anxiously await Spies’ arrival on the factory-spec bike at the test in Valencia, following the conclusion of the 2010 MotoGP season, where we’ll get our first glimpse at what Spies can do on the more powerful factory M1.…
During the Red Bull US GP weekend, Asphalt & Rubber’s Jensen Beeler got a chance to sit down with Hervé Poncharal, Team Manager of the Monster Tech3 Yamaha MotoGP team, and have a lengthy discussion. Sharing with us his insights into the race weekend, which for his riders was to a home crowed, Poncharal talks about the development of Ben Spies as a MotoGP rider, and role Colin Edwards has played in helping his teammate adjust to racing in MotoGP. Giving some insight about how the 2011 season will shape up for both Ben and Colin, Poncharal hints that we could see a British rider on the satellite team next year. Read the full interview transcript after the jump.
Yamaha has released another funny video for us to enjoy, and this time it features Team Texas: Colin Edwards and Ben Spies. The story is set with the Texan Duo heading out in a station wagon in order to have a “mancation” filled with bonding and other manly stuff. With inside jokes, casual references to prior racing seasons, and flahbacks to previous videos by Yamaha, we think someone in the Yamaha marketing department deserves a cookie. Check past the jump to get your laugh on Texan style.