20 years of hurt: Tech 3's wait for a MotoGP™ win is over

Herve Poncharal et al has had 31 MotoGP™ podiums since joining the grid in 2001 but their wait for victory has finally come to an end

Almost 20 years ago, the Tech 3 team entered the premier class with both Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano, who had just battled for the 250cc World Championship. They were ready for a new challenge and set about fighting against the world's best. The likeable outfit from Bormes-les-Mimosas in France in that time secured 31 podiums prior to yesterday’s victory, all with the help of Yamaha. Shinya Nakano was the very first to experience this privilege for Poncharal and co, taking third place at the Sachsenring during their debut year in the 500cc World Championship.

In the 18 seasons that followed with Yamaha, nine other riders also pocketed a podium under his colours, among which were: Alex Barros (Le Mans 2003), Jonas Folger (Sachsenring 2018), Marco Melandri (Barcelona and Assen 2004), Ben Spies (Silverstone and Indianapolis 2010), Bradley Smith (Phillip Island 2014 and Misano 2015) and Colin Edwards (Le Mans and Assen 2008, Donington 2009, plus Silverstone 2011).

Three further riders helped themselves to six rostrums during their time at Tech 3: Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso and, most recently, Johann Zarco. However, despite a multitude of talent and chances aplenty, for whatever reason victory always alluded Tech 3.

Johann Zarco was very close on two occasions. There was of course the race he led in Valencia three years ago, only to be beaten by three-tenths of a second by Dani Pedrosa in a nail-biting season finale. Just a few months later, Zarco was close again in the infamous Termas Clash. In the end, victory that day went to a former Tech 3 man in Cal Crutchlow.

Plus, who can forget in that same year Jonas Folger pushing Marc Marquez all the way at his home round in Germany. Folger eventual finished second behind the World Champion having pushed him as hard as anyone and, as a result, coming the closest to breaking the Spaniard's Sachsenring streak.

And then in 2019, the Yamaha journey was over. A new one begun with KTM and critics claimed that the Tech 3 curse would never be broken. Starting from scratch with the RC16, a relatively young machine compared to the other motorcycles on the grid, might have scared off many a team but not Herve and the gang. Their entire staff rolled up their sleeves and their efforts then began to pay off, especially in 2020.

In Jerez, Miguel Oliveira matched his career-best performance from the Red Bull Ring last year by finishing eighth. One week later, he qualified fifth on the grid only to tangle with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and the opening corner on the first lap. The Portuguese rider, however, would put that to the back of his mind and perform even better in Brno with a sixth place finish. Suddenly, a top three result for the 25-year-old and Tech 3 was a real possibility, but a victory? Surely not.

Then came along the Grand Prix of Styria. A race as bonkers as the four that came before it in a MotoGP™ season that will long be remembered. For many years, Poncharal has sat and watched from pit wall as his Tech 3 machines narrowly missed out on victory having led for so much of the race. This time, though, it was different. The only time his bike was at the front was they exited the last corner on the last lap. He saw his bike lead the race for nothing more than five seconds but did he care? Of course, he didn't.

Scenes of pure jubilation ensued on pit wall and in the garage as the likes of Guy Coulon, Steve Blackburn, Jerome Poncharal and daughter Mathilde Poncharal, with whom Herve warmly embraced after the chequered flag, all had their dream realised. 20 years of blood, sweat and tears finally paying off as Tech 3 became MotoGP™ race winners.

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