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IRTA president and Tech 3 Yamaha team manager Herve Poncharal expects MotoGP to emerge from the current global economic downturn a stronger and increasingly competitive championship.
In his dual role as the leader of the Tech 3 Yamaha team and president of IRTA (International Road-Racing Teams Association) Herve Poncharal has a unique insight on the workings of the MotoGP World Championship.
With two decades of management experience in Grand Prix competition behind him, Poncharal led his team to fourth in the standings last season, making Tech 3 the best performing satellite team in MotoGP in 2008.
Having managed in the premier class since 2001 Poncharal also sits on the Grand Prix Commission in his role as IRTA chief, alongside Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Claude Danis (FIM), and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), contributing to the panel which safeguards the welfare of the sport and accordingly sets out the rules and regulations of the championship.
With a global economic downturn affecting business and sport alike, the Grand Prix Commission last year made a significant change to the MotoGP regulations to bring in a single brand tyre supply rule for both safety and cost-cutting reasons, whilst the teams themselves opted to reduce their ´08-´09 testing schedule for the sake of prudence.
Despite the financial difficulties affecting the world´s leading economies the MotoGP World Championship is in good health, with further measures being taken to strengthen its future position, such as a cost-efficient move from 250cc competition to Moto2 as the intermediate class as of 2011.
Poncharal has been party to all these decisions and is excited about the way the Grand Prix fraternity is dealing with the current challenges it faces. He explains, `At the moment there is a lot of thinking, a lot of brainstorming from the manufacturers. I have been quite impressed by the results of their meeting which they had early in January in Japan. I saw some of the ideas which I would not have believed they would have come up with even three or four months ago and that is a result of the economic `crisis´. These are things that would be very good for the championship.´
He continues, `Next week in Italy we have a meeting with all the independent teams, along with Mr Ezpeleta to see what we can do together. It looks like Dorna, IRTA, the FIM and MSMA, everybody wants to see things changing. We need to be cheaper.´
Being realistic as well as optimistic Poncharal is honest about the tough challenges which lie ahead, acknowledging, `There is a global economic crisis that is hurting and hitting the whole world so there is no reason for us not to be affected by this crisis. Of course we live from sponsorship and our partners have got to take care of their businesses. We have to share their problems and if they have their business going down 20% or 30% for sure their investment with us will also go down. We have to try to understand that because as partners we are there to take the best, but also to share in their problems.´
`I have read a lot of negative things in a lot of media sources. I can tell you that we are going to go racing. We have the luck to be owned and promoted by Dorna who are absolutely in love with their product. I know that Mr Ezpeleta is very excited about the 2009 championship. For sure there are things that need to be changed, the world is changing and MotoGP has got to change. But from this situation we need to think `let´s use that situation to make some radical changes for the future´. We need to come out of this crisis stronger, more competitive and even more exciting to watch.´
Indeed, finding title sponsorship has been a tough call recently for Poncharal in particular with the Tech 3 team, although they enjoyed great results in 2008 without a main sponsor, thanks to the assistance of their various partners, strong support from Yamaha, the hard work of their staff and the on-track efforts of Colin Edwards and James Toseland - who continue with the team in 2009.
Poncharal is therefore philosophical about managing budgets and finding appropriate solutions for both his team and the championship in general, noting, `Tobacco sponsorship is not prevalent as it was in the past and most companies in that field have left, so it will take time to get that kind of funding again. We have to think how to be more competitive, more exciting, more attractive on track by costing less. I think this is a very exciting challenge.´
`Personally I am someone who tries to see things from a positive angle. I won´t sit here banging my head on a desk saying `I am going to die and we won´t find the budget´. I am talking to many people who are very excited about this new prospect and this new challenge.´
The pragmatic Frenchman believes MotoGP is moving with the times and that further regulatory change could happen sooner rather than later as the teams and organisers work in tandem to secure the future prosperity of the sport.
`We are in a world which is changing fast and I think this is a good opportunity for MotoGP to reshuffle, to restructure itself,´ he adds. `I am quite sure that soon, in the early part of the 2009 season we will see some very exciting measures being taken for 2010 that will help us again to be more exciting, competitive and attractive on track for a smaller budget. This is what we are trying to achieve.´
`If we are cheaper but without making any compromise in the level of MotoGP, which has to remain as MotoGP and as the premier motorcycling championship, for sure we will see more competitive racing and hopefully independent teams in a much better position for trying to win races. We are optimistic. Out of this crisis which is hitting all of us badly, we are working and we will come out stronger, in a better shape and more competitive on track.´
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