The Tech3 team is preparing for a new season and could not start it in a better way. With Oliveira it won two races last year, including the last one on the calendar, now it is sporting orange, the official KTM colour, on the fairings, and it will have an experienced rider like Danilo Petrucci among its ranks. Its patron, Hervé Poncharal, knows that all the right conditions for doing well are in place.
Let's start with those two wins last year…
"How do you say? The longer you wait, the more beautiful it is (laughs). In the past I was jealous when I saw Cecchinello win with Crutchlow, a former rider of mine. Then I saw Binder win in Brno, we could have done it and written history, but we didn't. However, a few days later, we did it in Austria, at KTM's home. On certain days you love life, you feel light, like when you are in love ".
Do you feel more pressure now?
“That's normal, everyone needs it to do well, but I don't feel more of it. 2020 was a great season for KTM and Tech3, but now we're starting from scratch, we're all aligned. What will happen is difficult to say now, also because we have a new rider who has yet to ride our bike, it is a big question mark but I am confident that Danilo will be fast immediately and that Lecuona will grow. We have ambition but no pressure, the beauty of sport is that nothing is ever written ".
Can a satellite team fight for the championship?
“Honestly, yes. Almost all satellite teams have equal machinery to the factory teams, equal support, equal development speed. We could see last year – with all respect to our factory team – we won more races than them, while if we look at Yamaha it was clearly the independent team in 2020 that was the leading team. So, I think an independent team has the possibility on paper to win races, we could see that last year, and to win the championship I’m pretty sure, but last year it was all strange, Mir had an incredible championship but he came out of nowhere. "
You will start this season without Guy Coulon, your long-time crew chief.
“It is an important chapter that comes to an end. We started racing together, in the French championship, in endurance, in the Dakar. Guy, however, will not leave the team, he will stay with us for another five years but with a different job. He will take care of the logistics, all the work we do at home and he will come to Qatar for the tests, so that the transition is smooth. In a few days he will turn 66 and he has been working for 50 years, he needed to change his life and what makes him happy makes me happy too ".
The contract with KTM expires at the end of the year, how is the renewal going?
"Honestly, I didn't leave Yamaha after twenty years to do only three with KTM. I talked to Stefan Pierer in Portimao, he asked me what I thought of a long-term contract and I told him it was fine with me. So we both agree, we will continue together for another five years and it is 95% done, because there is no signature yet. There are a lot of details to settle but I hope to make the official announcement before the championship starts. "
What changes between the official team and Tech3?
“Only the colour of the bikes, as it was already in 2020. There are four official bikes in all respects, even the updates arrive at the same time to all the riders. There is an exchange of data between the two teams, it is a point on which I have insisted from the beginning: last year Pol Espargarò said he solved problems thanks to our information, other times they help us. Having four riders is also important for development".
What do you expect from Petrucci?
“I want to be able to make him feel the sensations he is looking for, we will have to act as a group, a family. It's the most important thing, because we always talk about the riders, who are warriors, but there are many people behind them ”.
However, Danilo will have to go well quickly, he has an annual contract with an option for 2022.
“It's the same for Iker too. The first five or six races will be very important, but our goal is to do everything possible to stay together ”.
What goals do you have in Moto3?
“It's a crazy class, when they told me that KTM was going to leave Moto2 I didn't want to race there (laughs). Not because I don't like it, but because it's really tough, even though I enjoy it a lot. We continue with Oncu and Sasaki, they are fast and a good atmosphere has been created, my goal is to get the first win ”.
You also race in MotoE, what do you think of this class?
"The point is not whether you like it or not, but that electricity will be increasingly important for transport and we need to start with such a championship. Unfortunately, also due to the pandemic, we have not yet been able to do all we wanted. But Energica is working hard and this year, thanks to fast chargers and improved battery efficiency, the races will have an extra lap. In an ideal world I would like to have a championship with 18 or 20 races, but you have to proceed step by step, if you aim too high you only risk falling. I think it's a good showcase for the riders: after racing with us in 2019, Garzo found a seat in Moto2 ”.
You are also president of IRTA, what season should we expect?
“We are in the middle of a storm. We are working on a very strict protocol for Qatar and I think there will be no problems, as I have no reason to doubt the GPs in Europe, for the others there will be time to understand what will happen. I feel quite optimistic ”.
What do you think of Suzuki's choice not to replace Brivio?
“When I heard that he was going to leave MotoGP, I was happy for Davide but I thought it was bad news for Suzuki, because it lost a vital part. But I also know that they are very well organized, they can count on Roberto for the logistics and the collaboration with the Japanese works well. Before replacing a person in a key position like that you have to think twice, Sahara was wise, he made the right decision by not doing it ”.