'Special event' for Tech3 KTM

Tech3, the only French team in MotoGP, heads for its home round at Le Mans this weekend.
'Special event' for Tech3 KTM

This weekend's French MotoGP will naturally be a special event for home team Tech3.

But it will also be different from the recent past, with local star Johann Zarco moving to the factory KTM squad while Tech3 also makes its Le Mans debut in 'orange' with rookie Miguel Oliveira and team-mate Hafizh Syahrin.

"Your home round is always a very special one," said team manager Herve Poncharal.

"We still remember the unbelievable welcome we received from the crowd last year, which is for sure something that might be a bit different this year without a French rider on board, but still Miguel speaks really good French and Hafizh, I believe, is popular with the French public."

Zarco delighted the home fans with his first MotoGP podium, in Tech3 colours, at Le Mans in 2017. A victory challenge looked possible last year, when the #5 qualified on pole, only to fall in the race.

This year it is rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha) who offers the best chance of a home podium.

"Last year Claude Michy, the French Grand Prix organizer, managed to have the highest attendance [of the season 105,203 fans] on Sunday and hopefully with Fabio Quartararo in MotoGP, Johann Zarco in Factory KTM plus the whole Tech3 team carrying the French flag, we can at least match that result and make this event very special," said Poncharal.

Tech3 arrives for the fifth round having scored seven points, all courtesy of Oliveira, from the opening four events.

"I really believe that after the tough Grand Prix in Spain, the test on Monday was quite productive," Poncharal added. "Thanks to KTM we received a few new items to test, that were all quite positive – not an immeasurable gain, but small gains and I think this is the way we will grow up together. We were quicker, had a more constant lap time, a better pace and more confidence for the riders.

"Although we’ve never been [to Le Mans] with the KTM RC16, from my point of view, it should be a little bit easier than what we faced in Jerez. The weather is going to be a big question mark, as usual, but this is something that is going to be the same for everyone, except that our two guys never rode one lap in the wet on the KTM.

"So I think everybody, and especially us, are looking forward to dry conditions and hopefully sunshine."

Le Mans is one of the few tracks where Oliveira didn't take a podium in Moto2, but he has his sights set on challenging for more MotoGP points after a distant 18th at Jerez.

“Le Mans is a very nice track. It’s our team home GP, so it’s obviously quite special for everyone," he said. "After Jerez I think we have the good amount of work and the right direction, so I think we can basically confirm every little step we made in Jerez test and during the whole Grand Prix there now in Le Mans.

"Therefore, I guess we’ll going to have a good weekend and finishing close to the points or better inside the points is still the target. I’m motivated and very keen to discover this track on the MotoGP bike.”

Syahrin's first target will be to get closer to Oliveira.

“I’m really looking forward to Le Mans for the home GP of my team. I truly like this track and have some good memories from last year," said the Malaysian, who was twelfth last season.

"I know that it won’t be easy for us, but I believe I can improve, although it takes some time to understand everything in this situation.

"I keep my motivation high and train hard. I never stop learning and I’m convinced that the team will be better soon and stronger. I prepared myself well this year so far, so let’s see what we can do in France.”