2018 hasn't got off to the best start for Team Tech3. On Tuesday evening Hervé Poncharal was at home when he received a call from Bob Moore,Jonas Folger's manager. “I wondered why he was ringing" he says. He couldn't believe it when he heard the reason for the call.
“I'd spoken to Jonas just 10 days earlier, he'd sent me some photos of him skiing and playing with his daughter - he continues - He was feeling well and told me he was counting the days until he could get back on the bike at Sepang”.
You were optimistic then?
“I knew we had to wait until the tests before getting a real feel for his physical condition, because you need to be more than 100%, physically and mentally, to ride a MotoGP, but I was excited to start the new year in Malaysia with him and Zarco”.
“Moore told me that Jonas wouldn't race and at first I thought it was a joke, I didn't believe it. Unfortunately it wasn't and I was shocked. When I hung up the phone I still couldn't believe it, it's difficult to believe that a young, fast rider would want to stop. I couldn't sleep, I always have a very personal connection to my work”.
Have you spoken to Folger?
“Of course, it was important for me to do so. I called him and he confirmed that right now he simply cannot race. He apologised to me, to the team, to Yamaha and thanked me for giving him the chance to race in MotoGP”.
Did you try to get him to change his mind?
“I simply explained the consequences of this decision, also for his career, but without putting any pressure on him. To race in MotoGP you must be feeling 100%, mentally and physically, otherwise it's dangerous, for you and the others. You can never force a rider to do something he doesn't want to do. For this reason I respect his decision, although it leaves me in a mess”.
Jonas is OK physically?
“Yes, I want reassure his fans - physically he has nothing serious, he's recovered. But like I said, riding a MotoGP is not like every day life. I think this is a psychological issue, but he didn't go into detail as to the reasons for his decision”.
What are you plans in terms of replacing him?
“We will definitely run two riders in 2018, even though this has come as a real blow to the team. We were ready for Sepang, it's very difficult to find someone just a week before the tests”.
Has anyone made contact?
“My phone has been ringing since yesterday evening and I've received many emails too, many have offered”.
What would the best solution be?
“Taking a young Moto2 rider and helping him to grow, this is the project that interests me the most, because we have Johann who now has one year of experience. There is one rule though: I won't take any rider who is under contract with another team, that would be wrong”.
That leaves you with limited choices…
“Several riders have called to say they are available, but I know that's not the case. Either the team would need to release them and assure me that they have a replacement, or I don't even want to start negotiations with them. I am very clear on this”.
Many have already mentioned Rea…
“Who is under contract with Kawasaki in SBK, and the same goes for Alex Lowes and Van der Mark with Yamaha. I repeat what I said before, I won't take a rider from another team”.
Have you set yourself a deadline to resolve this?
“I want to have decided by the Thailand test, for now I have to wait. We'll be at Sepang with Zarco and the whole team, as everything's already booked, if Yamaha wants to give us a test riders for that test session, we are available”.
Have you spoken with Yamaha?
“I have received real support from Japan and I appreciate that. Tsuji (the general manager) has told me he'll support any decision I make”.