Hervé Poncharal, GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3, Team Principal:
Hervé, your team’s presence in MotoGP started back in 1990, several decades ago. The GASGAS story begins in 2023. How do you feel about leading this brand-new project?
HP: You know it is a weird feeling to explain. Even though I have been here for a while and have experienced several seasons, every new season is always inspiring. You have been preparing it the whole winter, and you have been testing.
You have been preparing everything as well as possible and are eager to move on and start racing. Doing it with GASGAS means a lot to me because I have been following this brand since it began in Trial – I love the name and know the Pierer Mobility Group is essential.
They believe a lot in it for the near future: I feel very excited to have that name on our bikes with our team and our riders, and it almost feels like my first ever season in MotoGP!
Pol and Augusto are former Moto2 title winners at different career stages, an all-Spanish rider line-up, and an all-Spanish brand. How do you feel about the mix of riders for this year?
HP: We always believe that experience and youth are a good mix. Pol is happy to be back with the Pierer Mobility Group. I am sure that he is pleased to be back withTech3. We started with him and his adventure in MotoGP, and it was a good memory. Pol was so keen to come back on the GASGAS RC16 that this boosted excitement and interest.
We had been following Augusto since last year, and he won – as Pol did, of course, a few years before – the moto2 title was fascinating for us because it is always perfect for receiving the rookie rider as a Moto2 world champion. I’m pretty sure they will work well together.
Pol pushes Augusto and Augusto to learn from Pol; why not the second part of the year have a proper relation between the two? I think it is a good mix, and on top of everything, they are top riders and team players. They bring a team’s incredible atmosphere, which is the trademark of GASGAS and Tech3.
We look forward to having some Latin touch in the paddock and, hopefully, in the GASGAS garage.
Herve, there’s been some changes to the team structure this year, with Nico [Goyon] as Team Manager and Paul [Trevathan] coming in to work with Pol again [as Crew Chief]. How do you feel about the way the team has morphed for 2023?
HP: Honestly, although we have only just had winter testing, I am thrilled. Very happy and very proud. Pol Espargaro wanted to re-work with Paul Trevathan, and from the beginning of the negotiation, I supported that because I know those two, and they believe in each other so much, and they are so good, they make ‘one’.
Paul Trevathan would come together with Pol Espargaro, which I supported 100%. Therefore [for] Nico Goyon, who has been playing a pivotal role in our team for many seasons, I had to think about what to do, but it was already in my mind for a few seasons, but I didn’t push at that time.
The little push to help me decide on that reorganization came from Pit Beirer. I remember he told me, “you need a team manager” maybe he meant that I was getting a bit old; I don’t know! But anyway, I was talking to Nicolas and explaining what I wanted from him.
It has been a slow process, but I am thrilled with it because I will rely more and more on him, and I will have more time to do other things and step back to look at something more mid-term future for the team.
We haven’t raced yet, but I saw during the Sepang test that it was working very well, and Nicolas Goyon is already feeling like a proper Team Manager. Paul Trevathan – with Francesco Guidotti on the other side – means everybody is helping him a lot, and I think this organization will be efficient and create positive vibes. Red vibes!
You have seen many seasons of MotoGP, but this year is the most extended season. We have 21 grands prix. How do you feel about that?
HP: I’m ready! This year we had quite a long winter break and fewer tests than we had in the past, and this is the plan for MotoGP in the future; clearly, the new format is fascinating. Adding on top of the MotoGP race on Sunday, a Sprint on Saturday will create more hype
and excitement. Saturday will be an incredible day for the media, the fans at the circuit, and all the other ones behind the TV screen. It will be a different method for the team, but we’ve been cautious with the format to avoid adding more laps.
So the number of laps for the weekend will remain the same as what we had before, but instead of a pretty dull FP4 like we had last year, we will have a Sprint, which will be a lot more exciting. So, I am looking forward to this new format, and everybody is excited to see what will happen. We have 21 events.
We know it is a lot, but it is difficult to say ‘no’ when countries like India and Kazakhstan knock at your door, and this is what we should do; we should expand and have more races. We should go to different countries. OK, grew to a certain extent because we reduced the races in Spain to have the Indian race, so I think we reached a limit altogether. But the calendar this year is a bit difficult, but 21 rounds are something we can do.
More pressure, more stress
Let’s talk for a moment about Sprints. You mention words like ‘exciting’, but from the team perspective, will it also be experimental or potentially stressful? How does it work?
HP: It will be, for sure, more pressure, more stress, but I read some riders’ interviews that said stress and pressure are part of our job. I know some people like to work under stress – if it is positive stress
and pressure – a racing rider loves to race more than test, and I think the Sprint will add spice and more excitement.
[It will be] a bit different to organize, for sure, it will be a bit more pressure, but the teams have employed more mechanics because you need to prepare for a Sprint like you would like an FP4. We are racers, and MotoGP is about action, passing, and battles, and a Sprint will provide more conflicts than an FP4.
I think it’s going to be very interesting, but let’s wait and see and, as Carmelo Ezpeleta [Dorna Sports CEO] said, we will have a look, we will monitor what is going on, and we will listen to all the parties involved, and we are open for discussion.
Lastly, you said you knew about the GASGAS brand from when, and I know you are also an off-road fan, so are you buying a red motorcycle? Is there one in the garage yet?
HP: I have one already! It has two wheels with a handlebar and two brakes, but the engine is electric! It’s a GASGAS mountain bike, and I love it. The whole winter, I have been on it. These were the best days of my
winter break. But visiting the factory and being a bit old, speed and madness are not my favourite departments anymore! I have seen the Trial GASGAS TXT, and these are beautiful machines, and this would suit me well. Next to my GASGAS bicycle, I could have a Trial bike!