Rewind to 2001; Wikipedia is founded, Apple release the iPod, the Mars Odyssey is launched, Coldplay tour their debut album worldwide, the first Harry Potter film is released, Luis Figo beats David Beckham to Best Footballer in the World, Billie Eilish is born, Michael Schumacher dominates Formula One and Valentino Rossi begins rewriting the record books of World Championship motorcycle racing.
The same year, a small satellite outfit called Tech 3 dream big as they debut in the premier class of MotoGP, then known as the 500cc class. In partnership with Yamaha, ex-racer Hervé Poncharal moved his intermediate operation to the premier class. With both Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano who had previously competed in the 250cc class, the French outfit set themselves a new challenge – to fight against the top racers in the world.
When Tech 3 arrived on the big bike scene, they pocketed their first podium fairly swiftly, in the same year with Nakano at the Sachsenring. And in the 18 seasons that followed with Yamaha, the team has celebrated nine riders on the podium, from Alex Barros, Marco Melandri, Ben Spies and Colin Edwards to Jonas Folger, Bradley Smith, Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco.
In 2019, Tech 3 began a new journey with Austrian manufacturer KTM. But it appeared the curse of being confined to second or third place wasn’t broken. Despite Poncharal watching from the pit wall countless times as his machines narrowly missed out on the race win, the Frenchman didn’t even get a taste of the podium last year.
And yet during the Styrian GP on 23rd August 2020, everything seemed to fall into place and years of hard work proved to pay off. In the restarted race, KTM pushed for the win on home turf. In the factory team, Pol Espargaro appeared to have the title within his grasp, battling Pramac Ducati rider Jack Miller. But on the last corner, Portuguese racer Miguel Oliveira took the opportunity to slip inside the duelling duo and seize the first victory for his country, his team and himself.
“I saw that Pol started to keep a quite defensive line and I thought they could both lose a lot of time, so I could take advantage of that. In the last corner, I let them both fight and just went to the inside. When I saw the chequered flag and no one around, it was just pure joy!” – Miguel Oliveira
This weekend at the Red Bull Ring has been a long time coming. What made the event all the more exhilarating was that since 2016, Ducati have dominated the Red Bull Ring, with riders such as Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iaonnone and Jorge Lorenzo. At the first of the back-to-back events in Spielberg, the team took ownership of the track once more with Number 04 crossing the finishing line victorious. But the following week was different, and Poncharal became “the happiest man in the world.”
“To be honest, this morning, I was so down when I saw my two Moto3 riders, who collided when they were on course for a podium. And I thought maybe it’s time for me to retire, when you are deeply involved. And now I’m almost the happiest man in the world. Only racing can give you these up and down emotions.
What an incredible day, incredible emotions! It is something like 40 years that we’ve been in this business and we’ve never won a MotoGP race. Honestly, I thought that was never going to happen and today our dream came true. Here in Austria, which is in front of our title sponsor Red Bull, and in front of the KTM management, our manufacturer. I would like to dedicate this victory to Miguel, because he has been pushing a lot. I knew he could do it.” – Hervé Poncharal.