Posted on Mar 17, 2016 by George Penny
This is the first time I’ve started the season in a situation where it looks almost certain I will be switching teams next year. I‘ve been with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team for five years, two in Moto2 and three in MotoGP and after this year, my fourth with them in MotoGP it looks like it’s time to move on for both parties. I’ve had an absolutely brilliant time with them but Team boss Herve Poncharal has made it clear he will not be renewing next year, however well I do. Tech3 is used by Yamaha to bring on young talent and I’m going to be 26 by the end of this season and much as I’d like to be I’m no longer fast young talent.
It’s a scary situation but it’s the way of the MotoGP paddock and gives me even more motivation not that I needed it. It’s such an exciting situation because of my performance last season I’m in a very strong position which gave me so much confidence and self-belief. I slowly figured out what I needed to ride fast although this year a few spanners have been thrown into the works with the new tyres and electronics.
I’m a rider who does take time to adapt to changes. After pre-season testing I do feel a little on the back foot going into the season but internally feel more motivated and excited than I ever have done. Being on the back foot has always made me fight, kick and scream more to be where I want to be. It’s an enormous challenge with the changes and with the prospect of getting a factory bike to ride next year to take me into 2017/18. Rather than being distracting it totally focuses my goal. Last year it was finish the top non-factory bike and this year it’s exactly the same although realistically that could be in the top eight because both the factory bikes and the riders are so strong this season.
The big picture is if I can finish the top non-factory bike and in that top eight I will be well placed in the draft for a factory ride next year. That biggest opportunity as always is going to come in those first four races starting in Qatar on Sunday. The bike I’m riding is the World Championship winning Yamaha from last year and is certainly the closest we’ve been, especially with the chassis, to the factory bike. It’s the most competitive bike Yamaha can provide us and it’s up to me to ride the bike to the limit especially in those first four races before the factory bikes start to make changes.
Already before this season starts there are plenty of rumours about moves next year. I’m certain things will happen quickly because the big names in the sport want things to happen quickly in order they can concentrate on the season. I would like to be in the same situation but I’m not first pick and so I will be further down the line. We are either going to see a massive merry go round or it could remain much the same. It depends on a couple of the big riders if they are prepared to take the risk and jump to another manufacturer or stay within their comfort zone. I’m around eighth pick in the draft and so I’ve got to be patient
The three pre-season tests have been tough especially with the switch to the Michelin tyres. I feel I’m going into the season the most unprepared I’ve been but because we have been struggling we have focused on everything. We have kept our heads down, digested all the data and worked very hard. I think sometimes that is a blessing in disguise because you go through winter testing and everything seems to work and you don’t change too many things. You turn up for the first race and if something little is wrong you don’t have the base of the pyramid to support you. We are in a secure position but we are only 90 % and have not nailed everything together. I think we can find that ten per cent in Qatar and be ready when it really matters.
I just can’t believe that this is my 11th season in grand prix racing. I’ve always questioned myself that doing the same thing day in and day out will become boring but I’m certainly far away from that. This season with the new challenges has brought me a new aspect, more fun and definitely a new challenge. I’m really up for the challenge ahead, it will be tricky and not as straight forward as last season but I’m looking to earn it and that’s what gives me so much satisfaction from racing, having to earn to what you end up getting. It fills me with excitement and motivation because testing never really brings out the spark in me doing the donkey work. When you have 15 minutes on the clock and you have to nail two perfect qualifying laps that what makes me tick.
Let’s stop talking about it and get on with it.