One of MotoGP‘s longstanding partnerships is coming to an end, as Tech3 announced it will stop being Yamaha‘s satellite racing team at the end of the 2018 season.
It was Tech3 that made the decision to end its 20-year-old partnership with Yamaha (including what will be 18 years in the premier class), after receiving an offer from another manufacturer. Tech3 chief Hervé Poncharal wouldn’t name the other party at this point, possibly because a deal hasn’t been fully finalized yet, but the decision to end its deal to lease two of Yamaha’s YZR-M1 racebikes suggests it’s only a matter of time before it becomes official and the new partner is announced.
“Tech3 is a small company, which has to think about the future and has to weigh the different options,” says Poncharal. “We’ve been offered a deal, that includes something we’ve been waiting for almost since we started with Tech3 and I couldn’t say no.”
The announcement comes days after the team named Hafizh Syahrin as its replacement for Jonas Folger for the 2018 season to race alongside Johann Zarco. Though their partnership will soon coming to an end, both Tech3 and Yamaha say they will be fully committed to each other for this season.
The Tech3-Yamaha split opens up some questions that will need to be addressed going forward. For Yamaha, the question is whether it will continue to support a satellite team in 2019. Given how successful Tech3 has been, often finishing as the top satellite squad in the premier class since joining with Yamaha, there will likely be many teams interested in leasing an M1.
“The end of such a successful partnership is always a bit sad, as it also marks the end of a long-term relationship. We are very grateful for Hervé’s loyalty and support to the Yamaha brand and for the excellent results obtained throughout that time,” says Kouichi Tsuji, president of Yamaha Motor Racing. “We will continue to provide our full support to the Tech3 team and their riders throughout the 2018 season, while we simultaneously evaluate our options for an alternative team in the MotoGP World Championship class for 2019 and beyond.”
For Tech3, the lingering question is who its new partner will be. There are currently eight Ducatis, and six Hondas on the MotoGP grid while Aprilia, KTM and Suzuki each have two factory bikes. The latter three are relatively new to the series, joining the circuit in recent years, and may be ready to expand with a satellite team. A squad like Tech3 would offer a proven track record of finding success with notable riders such as Andrea Dovizioso, Colin Edwards, Ben Spies, Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith and Zarco.