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Hervé Poncharal on Xaus and Elias

Hervé Poncharal on Xaus and Elias

Hervé Poncharal on Xaus and Elias

This year, the Fortuna Yamaha team led by Hervé Poncharal will line up Rubén Xaus and Toni Elias in the MotoGP class. The pre-season tests held at Sepang and Phillip Island allowed the two Spaniards to discover a new environment and a new bike.

Having clinched the ‘Rookie of the year' title on a Ducati, Rubén Xaus discovered the YZR-M1 this winter, as did Toni Elias, who moved up from the 250 class. After the three first test sessions of the year, team manager Hervé Poncharal talked to about his new line-up.

"We were looking forward to this first test, because working with new riders it is always exciting. We already knew Rubén who started last year in MotoGP, whereas Toni had already spent a few years on the GP scene," said Poncharal.

"These tests were not better or worse than what we had expected: it was only a first contact. Toni discovers the 4-stroke this year, but he feels more and more comfortable with the bike. For Rubén, it was a bit more complicated as he had an infamous problem with the seat of the M1."

"It was a shame, because Rubén is one of the fittest riders of the field, but the first three days were an ordeal. We modified the seat and we thought he would have enough time to recover between the two test sessions at Sepang. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough; on the second test, after ten laps or so, he was suffering again. So we decided to call it a day, because we couldn't afford to take risks that would affect our season."

"It was only in Australia that Rubén could really start to work. I'm really satisfied by the way he works with the team. His relationship with his new chief mechanic, Guy Coulon, and the rest of the staff is great," continued the Frenchman. "He already knew a bit of French when he joined the team, but since then, he has worked a lot. Being fluent in French isn't that important, however, it demonstrates his willingness to fit in the team. This is so typical of him: he's very generous in every aspect of his life, you can see that on the track, but also in his work ethic."

"He's really passionate about racing. He knows that the rider has a key-role, and he is also aware of the importance of teamwork. The way he blended into the team is one of the satisfactions of the pre-season."

For his rookie season in the blue ribbon class, Toni Elias can rely on chief mechanic Antonio Jiménez, who worked with the Spanish top riders in the past: Jorge Martínez ‘Aspar', Alex Crivillé and Carlos Checa.

"Toni has everything to learn about MotoGP, but this year he will be helped by Antonio Jiménez, who had been Carlos Checa's chief mechanic for several years. Jiménez has a deep understanding of the Yamaha and a very strong technical background. On top of that, he also has the advantage of being very close to Toni. When Toni was still in the 250 class, whenever he had a dip in form, he would ask Jiménez for advice. Toni can think of him as an uncle."

"This year will be an important step for Toni, but it will be the same for all the 250 riders who aim for a MotoGP ride, the likes of Pedrosa, Dovizioso and Barberá… Among the top MotoGP riders, many are getting close to the end of their career and the field will soon be renewed. When you think about it, John Hopkins is younger than Toni by two months, so you can't say it's too early. Marco (Melandri) made the step and went through two tough seasons, but he should reach the top pretty soon."

According to Poncharal, Elias shouldn't be judged only on his performance, but on the way he will adapt to the MotoGP class.

"Since we moved to a 4-stroke formula, we saw that the step from the 250 class is much more complicated. You cannot expect a 250 rider to perform as soon as he gets on a 999cc. The example of Max Biaggi making a successful switch (he finished runner-up in his rookie year) is getting old: when that happened, the top class was a 500cc 2-stroke formula and Biaggi was already pretty experienced. This year, Toni will be learning and everybody - the team, Yamaha and Fortuna - is well aware of it."

Poncharal confirmed the position of his team in Yamaha's MotoGP program: its role is to help young riders to mature before being able to fight at the front.

"The way Yamaha manages its MotoGP effort is clear: on one side, you have the full factory team with Valentino Rossi aiming for the title and supported by Colin Edwards. On our side, our task is to help new riders to get used to the MotoGP class, to guide them through this learning process in the best conditions. It doesn't mean that we don't have ambitions, but you have to keep in mind that we collaborate with the official team as a side effort. Having two teams competing against each other wouldn't make sense anyway."

"Our work is an investment for the future, it's all about the training of riders. We know that Rubén, who is a very aggressive rider, must calm down a bit; Toni also has to make some progress in terms of riding, since he still rides with a typical 250 style. The potential is here anyway, and it's up to us to do everything we can to have a successful season."

MotoGP, 2005, Toni Elias

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