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|01-05-2016, 02:21 AM||#1|
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Yamaha says: 2016 last chance for Smith and Espargaró
Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP teammates Pol Espargaró (44) and Bradley Smith (38) had their contracts renewed for 2016. But Yamaha's Lin Jarvis says that both will need to definitely step it up this year in order to either move forward to a factory team or remain on the Tech 3 Yamaha squad.
The Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP team will enter the 2016 season with the same configuration as in the last two seasons—namely, that its two riders will be Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaró. Both had their contracts renewed last year weeks after winning the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours last July with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team, ending a 19-year drought at the prestigious endurance race. But Lin Jarvis, Yamaha Factory Racing Managing Director, said that there was no direct link between that success and both riders continuing in what has been commonly referred to as the Yamaha factory’s “junior” team. “They are with us because of their performance and their potential,” assured Jarvis.
In his third year on the Tech 3 Yamaha team, Bradley Smith finally had his breakout season, finishing sixth in the championship and top non-factory rider, with a second place finish at Misano as his top score for the year.
For Smith, 2015 appeared to be a watershed year, with the young Brit finally making the big step in speed and consistency that resulted in his best MotoGP finishes to date, with a second place at Misano (albeit the result of some luck with the weather) and sixth in the championship standings. Thinking more about his approach to riding and setup saw Smith end the year as the top non-factory rider. “Bradley is with us because of his performance. In the three years he has been with us, he has stepped up: he stopped crashing, he works incredibly hard, his results have got better, he finished sixth in the championship being the first non-factory rider. So, does he deserve a ride in the Tech3 Team? Absolutely, yes.”
“Bradley is with us because of his performance. In the three years he has been with us, he has stepped up: he stopped crashing, he works incredibly hard, his results have got better, he finished sixth in the championship, being the first non-factory rider."
“Pol, on the other hand, is there because of his potential,” mentioned Jarvis. “2014 was better than 2015, which didn’t turn out so well.” In 2014, the younger Espargaró (his older brother Aleix rides for the factory Suzuki team) showed the type of speed that had many predicting big things from the 2013 Moto2 World Champion in 2015. Unfortunately the train got derailed a bit last year, with Espargaró struggling to show the same form he displayed in 2014. Nonetheless, Jarvis and Yamaha still feel that potential is there. “We believe his talent is clear, but he needs to improve his process. He needs to improve the way he goes about racing, he needs…this year he needs to deliver. There is no question about his talent, there is no question about his character, because he is a super-positive guy to hang around and everything else, but he needs to step up next if he wants retain a place in a top-level team…in my opinion. Having said this, does he deserve a ride in the Tech3 team? Yes, also.”
In contrast to Smith, Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Pol Espargaro had a 2015 season that wasn't so great. After a stellar 2014 season that saw the rookie MotoGP rider come close to several podium finishes, Espargaro couldn't get up to speed last year and ended up ninth in the championship.
Make no mistake, though; Jarvis doesn’t pull any punches and adds that both riders will need to prove themselves in 2016, and that they certainly looked at other alternatives before re-signing both riders. “I also have to say that we looked around at other available riders. We said, ‘OK if we didn’t retain Bradley or Pol in the Tech3 Team, who else would you put on the bikes?’ It was probably one year too early to think who could be eventually the new riders. For Bradley, and also for Pol, this year will be important; I would say they have a risk and an opportunity”.
“Pol (Espargaró) is there because of his potential. We believe his talent is clear, but he needs to improve his process. He needs to improve the way he goes about racing, he needs…this year he needs to deliver."
“The risk is that both have to perform at a high level; the opportunity is one year later. Nobody knows who is going to retire; nobody knows which contract will be open. All the top seats in all of the factory teams will be available. It’s a great opportunity for them, but will we have Bradley or Pol in 2017 in the Tech3 Team? Probably not, honestly. They may move to other places or, if they have exceptional results they may stay with us or upgrade to the Factory Team.”