Poncharal is passionate about all sports — he’s an avid skier, cyclist, kayaker and runner — but especially motorsports. He’s equally passionate about people. “For me the best moment of the day is in the evening on the circuit in the hospitality…and you’re there with your riders, with your team and you share and you’re just happy to share and to spend time together. If there’s a secret in tech 3 it’s maybe this. Every saturday morning we’re here that we don’t have a race, 50 or 60 percent of the team we’re going cycling together. We’re going swimming together in the summer so we share many things. It is not compulsory but not only for work. so this creates a strong relationship and I always like long-term partners. as long as I can, I like to keep a long relationship and I think success is not coming of continuity but continuity sometimes can explain success.”
Both Andrea Dovizioso (4) and Cal Crutchlow (35) had podium finishes for the team in 2012. There was the usual inter-team rivalry, but also respect. “Cal was desperate to beat him all the time, which was really good for the whole performance of the team. They were talking a lot, they were exchanging everything,” Poncharal said.
The independent thinking of the team has not only kept them near the top but strengthened their individual skills. With the FIM sealing the engines, the days of mechanics changing internal parts are gone. Mechanics have become parts-changers, with specialists for things like data and suspension and tires. “at some stage you cannot say I’m happy to do only, even not the maintenance, but only the setup without being involved in anything else than that and refuse to do something different when you can,” Poncharal said. “So moto2 was a window that I opened and blew fresh air and helped my guys to be more excited and to be more involved and to improve their skill and their work.”
Colin Edwards joined the team...
Colin Edwards joined the team in 2008 and quickly made his mark. He qualified on the front row in the first two races, scored the team’s first fourstroke MotoGP podium in France, and followed it up with another in the Dutch TT.
As much as Poncharal would like to design and build his own MotoGP machine, he knows it’s not feasible. The cautionary tale is Team Roberts. In 2005, Kenny Roberts designed and built a motorcycle powered by the in-house Proton KR V-5 that was ultimately a hugely expensive failure. “To develop an engine at that level, first you need the right people, you need the material, and you need big, big, big budget,” Poncharal said. “Look how much Ducati is struggling at the moment and why BMW is not here, because they know the level. So if you think small workshop with a small budget with almost nothing you’re going to beat the factory Honda or factory Yamaha, you’re dreaming. And if you do that anyway, you will not be competitive. You will have very low level riders, zero sponsors and then this is the end of it. So I’m not frustrated.”
Moto2 has been a great motivator...
Moto2 has been a great motivator for the team, which invested in software and machinery and tooling to keep the team fresh and learning. Here Guy Coulon takes a break from fabricating gas tanks for the new Moto2 chassis. Danny Kent and Louis Rossi are riding the Tech 3 Moto2 bikes this year.
Certainly you won’t be able to sign the best riders. Until this season, satellite teams were the training ground for rookies. Then came Marc Marquez. Honda and Repsol so desperately wanted the Moto2 World Champion in the premier class that the rule mandating rookies spend a year on a satellite team was scuttled. So team owners like Poncharal take riders Yamaha has a long term interest in, like Ben Spies, who was the golden boy before his disastrous 2012 season. Dovi, on the other hand, was a special case. Like Colin Edwards, he was a rider who’d been on factory equipment. Unlike Edwards, he was still considered ascendant.
What impressed Poncharal about Dovizioso was his hospitality. Dovi and his parents hosted the Tech 3 team at his home in Forli, just north of Mugello and “I was touched because he organized everything himself. What he did with having attention for everybody, he was with his mom and dad, he was serving us, he was taking care of all of us and this is the type of relationship I like and it is more and more difficult to find with top riders.”
Poncharal wanted to team Shinya...
Poncharal wanted to team Shinya Nakano with Olivier Jacque in 1999 when the team began with Yamaha’s 250cc effort “Anyway, they were very open and quite quickly we managed to have an agreement and we decided to start working from ‘99, which is this picture,” of Poncharal with Jacque, Nakano, and the Chesterfield Yamaha.
Edwards was equally hospitable. He invited the team not only to the Texas Tornado Boot Camp
, but also to his home in Conroe. Edwards picked them up at the airport, took them to the ranch, arranged the accommodations. In the evening he hosted a barbecue. “He was happy to cut the chicken, to cook the beef, to cook the vegetables and we were by the pool and he said, ‘Are you okay? Are you having fun?’ And that was a really good moment where we shared something with somebody which is a real person.”
Cal Crutchlow vastly improved from 2011 to 2012 and more is expected of him in 2013. Crutchlow extends the family relationship Poncharal promotes. His father attends most every race, as does his girlfriend. But that doesn’t guarantee constant harmony. Rider relationships and management are two areas that are sometimes difficult. “Last year when Cal was having problems, you know, we have some hard words in Laguna, I remember, because the rider never likes to hear (some things) and I am not somebody who thinks to support somebody you have always to say what he wants to hear,” Poncharal said. “I believe if you want to support well you need to tell sometimes with your experience, although we don’t know everything, and on some points I cannot tell a rider how to ride, because he’s riding much better than I do. But you have to tell him ‘We cannot carry on like that. You need to change this, we need to change our philosophy, our mentality, argue, our way of working,’ things like that.
Poncharal had earlier segued into a discussion about Ben Spies, but later asked that his comments be removed. Just as I arrived back at the Marseilles airport, Poncharal called to ask that I not use it. There was nothing particularly damning, and nothing that most people in racing don’t know. Mostly he was disappointed that Spies didn’t buy into the family atmosphere of the team.
What some riders don’t understand, Poncharal said, is that “Life is not only made about results and money. You have to share with people and you have to have fun and even for you is good. Then you discover other people, you listen to their lives, their culture, and, you know, this is what makes us human beings better.”