Interview: Marnicq Bervoets on Benoit Paturel, new signings and MXGP!
Marnicq Bervoets might never have won a World Championship during his time as a rider but the Belgian did get close finishing second four times, he will go down as one of the best riders never to win a world title during his career.
Now with his racing career well behind him, the forty-eight year old is still an ever presence the GP paddock every week as he the team manager of the Kemea Yamaha outfit. The Kemea Yamaha squad focus on the MX2 World Championship.
Benoit Paturel has been somewhat of a sensation since singing with the team and finally won his first MX2 overall in Switzerland. However, he picked up an injury this week which will rule him out of the American round of the MX2 World Championship at least.
The Kemea squad have already been busy preparing for the 2018 season with the signings of Jago Geerts and Vsevolod Brylyakov.
We decided to catch up with the well respected Marnicq Bervoets to discuss a range of topics.
Gatedrop: Marnicq, for the people that aren’t aware, can you just tell me your job role within the Kemea Yamaha team?
Marnicq Bervoets: Yeah, well I’m the team manager of the team. I actually co-ordinate and organise the team.
Gatedrop: We woke up to the news this morning that Benoit Paturel has picked up an injury, can you give us an update and how long is he expected to be out for?
Marnicq Bervoets: We don’t know for the moment how long he will be out for. He has problems with his liver, it’s bleeding a little bit and it’s damaged. He has to stay for one week in the hospital at the moment. They will then check-up again how he’s healing, then we will know more. It’s for sure that in USA he will not ride.
Gatedrop: On Paturel, you must be happy with the progress he has made since the 2016 season! He got his first overall GP win in Switzerland, it must have been a great day for the team?
Marnicq Bervoets: At the beginning of the season, Benoit was really fast and he was second at the Grand Prix of Qatar. I expected actually more from him during the season but the Grand Prix victory never came. It stayed away a little but, we had some DNF’s also and that kills a little bit the mentality to win the Grand Prix – he was too nervous and he wanted too much to win one Grand Prix and he put too much pressure on himself.
Half way through the season we said to just do your thing and try to do your best and we will see where we are. Suddenly in Switzerland he took it, it was a little bit late but we are happy to have the first Grand Prix victory.
Gatedrop: Paturel has had good speed but his starts have been his main weakness. As a team have you been changing much on the bike to get it better out of the gate and has the mesh start gate made much of a difference this year with some riders?
Marnicq Bervoets: Yeah, it’s a completely different start this year. Benoit and Brent had some problems with that, Alvin Ostlund wasn’t such a big problem with that. For the two other riders it was strange, sometimes they would get a really good start or just a really bad start. Okay, we have to think about the rider, to try to do our best to have better starts and make the bike better.
I think also that it’s a lot of mentality questions from the riders that makes a big difference. Benoit makes some good starts, he took a good holeshot I think in France, for example. It’s the same bike, you know, a lot of it is down to the mentality to take a good start.
Gatedrop: Paturel moves up to the MXGP class next year, if rumours are to be believed then he’s still looking a ride next year. Was there any discussion he could stay with Yamaha for 2018? Also, do you think he’ll suit the 450cc?
Marnicq Bervoets: I think that for sure he’s a 450 rider. The problem is I think that at the beginning of the season that Yamaha wanted to open the contract and make a deal with him for MXGP. But, he didn’t want to do it, he wanted to be free for 2018. It was a little bit gambling from his side, you know suddenly Yamaha already had four riders signed up for the MXGP class and they didn’t want to have a fifth rider so it left him without a seat at Yamaha.
Now after the victory he did in Switzerland, Yamaha wants to maybe do something for him and still try to find a solution for him to have a bike in MXGP.
Gatedrop: In 2016, the team had Valentin Guillod in the MXGP class. How was it having him along with the MX2 riders and would you consider having Paturel for the MXGP class in 2018?
Marnicq Bervoets: No, we don’t want to do it anymore. It’s too much pressure on the team and it’s too difficult to manage. You have two classes, when one class is finished, the mechanics have to go back, the chief mechanic has to stay for the MXGP class so we can’t fix the MX2 class anymore, it’s a mess.
As long as everything goes well it’s not a problem but when something goes wrong we have a big problem in the team and I don’t want to put that pressure on my mechanics, chief mechanic and on myself anymore. We try to focus on one class and with three riders, it’s enough.
Gatedrop: It was recently announced that Vsevolod Brylyakov has signed with the team for the 2018 season. Are you surprised he was available and what do you think he’ll bring to the team next year?
Marnicq Bervoets: Well, it’s a little bit gambling you know. He’s the only one I think that can be a top three rider next year. The other ones are too young or haven’t got the experience to be at the front.
Yamaha pushed for only one rider to be in the top three or top five for next year. This was the only option we could have, we also had other options but I think this was one of the best options that Yamaha could do.
Gatedrop: Obviously next year will be Brylyakov’s last year in the MX2 World Championship, can you just confirm if he’s signed a one year deal or if he has the option to move up to the MXGP class with Yamaha?
Marnicq Bervoets: I don’t know about that. I’m not sure so I can’t say.
Gatedrop: The team have also announced Jago Geerts as a signing for next year, what’s your thoughts on the Belgian and his father used to be your mechanic, you must be looking forward to that connection again?
Marnicq Bervoets: For sure, it’s a good feeling to give something back. He was my mechanic for five years so now I have to try and fix something good for his son.
I want to tell you something, next year is just a learning year. I don’t want to put any pressure on that guy because he’s for the future. Next year is just to learn and seeing the speed in MX2, if he can handle it and make progress during the season. That’s the goal with Jago.
Gatedrop: Jago has been working with Steve Ramon this year. Will he continue to work with him along with Jacky Vimond?
Marnicq Bervoets: Jago will continue to work with Steve because he still has to do one year in school. It will be difficult for him to be with Jacky Vimond every day. We say for him to keep doing his training every day with Steve and your physical trainer while you go to school.
If we can help, Jacky can help him at the race track, he will be available but not full time training with Jacky because it’s not possible with school.
Gatedrop: What have you made of Brent Van Doninck’s season so far? He seems to always be carrying an injury or has a problem so maybe we haven’t saw the best of him?
Marnicq Bervoets: Yes, this is the problem, this is the problem with him and we don’t know why. This is the third year we are working together and every time he has to come back again from injury. After coming back the speed is not there anymore so it’s really difficult for us to make this decision.
It was a really hard and difficult decision but I think for him and for the team it’s better that we split because I think he needs some new brand or a new start somewhere else. I think if we go again next year together that after two Grand Prix’s it will be the same problem. I think he needs new blood as we say and that’s why we didn’t go any further.
Gatedrop: How would you describe Alvin Ostlund’s season so far?
Marnicq Bervoets: Yeah, Alvin was okay. He had an injury at the beginning of the season in Argentina that kept him further away from the top riders. Speed wise, you know he’s a little bit off with the speed against other riders.
It’s so difficult to say but I think that the speed was not good enough to go with the good riders. Yamaha have made the decision to put him in another team, in a support team. Maybe he needs one more years’ experience and then maybe he could come back to us on the factory bike.
Gatedrop: Just on the team’s structure, the team have already confirmed two riders. Is there plans to have a third rider on the team?
Marnicq Bervoets: Yes, we are still thinking about that. Two riders will be okay but I think Jago Geerts is still too young and like I said he needs one year’s experience. It’s maybe dangerous to go one year with a rider like Brylyakov to do the whole championship so we need a third rider. We are still thinking about a third rider and we will see what we can do. We are still talking to some riders.
Gatedrop: You’ve been at Kemea Yamaha a while now. In terms of riders you’ve worked with, who would you say is the best rider you’ve worked with in terms of putting in the hard work to make it to the top?
Marnicq Bervoets: Aww that’s easy! It’s Benoît Paturel, he came from nowhere. We picked him up three years ago and he was nothing.
I remember that Jacky Vimond said that he’s a really talented rider but maybe not as talented as someone like Dylan Ferrandis. But Paturel is a really really hard worker, you see with hard work and believing in yourself you can come forward in motocross. That’s what Benoit did.
Gatedrop: There’s been a lot of talk about the Motocross Des Nations this year, what’s your thoughts on some of the Americans not contesting and also the date of the event?
Marnicq Bervoets: It’s always nice. The Motocross Des Nations is the top event of the year. I mean with the atmosphere, spectators, it’s really nice to watch. It’s a little bit a pity that team USA aren’t coming with the best riders.
It’s something that you have to think about for the future, I understand also the USA riders that they have Supercross and National championship so they want to have a month off on vacation. Training and testing starts again for the next season and this is the problem, I think it’s the date that we maybe have to think about. I don’t know, it’s difficult.
Gatedrop: The next World Championship is in America, from a manufacturer point of view how important is it to go there? Also, it will be nice to see the GP riders against the best in America!
Marnicq Bervoets: Sure, sure, we always like to go to USA to battle with the USA riders. It’s always special to be in USA, I think also to battle with the riders from there. It’s on their tracks and they are used to the weather and the humidity but I am looking forward to that.
Gatedrop: This weekend Jefffrey Herlings will go up against America’s best in their own backyard contesting in the AMA National. What’s your thoughts on that and how do you think he’ll cope?
Marnicq Bervoets: It’s not easy for him I think. He has to travel and also with the weather, it’s hot. It’s completely different and he will be racing against the best riders in the world. It depends also on the track, is it sandy or a hard pack track, I don’t know. But, it’s a challenge for him, I know he’s an animal and he can do something really good.
I think it’s difficult to do really really good for him at that kind of race but I think also for him it’s a dream to battle against the USA riders, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to seeing what the results are going to be. Maybe it will be a surprise, with him you just don’t know.
Gatedrop: What’s your thoughts on the under 23 age rule in the MX2 World Championship?
Marnicq Bervoets: Well, in one way it’s really really good to see all the top riders in the MXGP class because you see now that all the top riders are there. It’s really nice racing. On the other hand you see that many riders have no ride next year and good riders. This is a problem, Benoit Paturel for the moment is in third place in the MX2 World Championship and he doesn’t have a ride for next year.
It’s really hard for the riders now but for the spectators it’s really nice to see. If I go look at the MXGP class it’s really nice to see that all the best riders are there and fight in the races so the top level is really high in that class.
Gatedrop: It looks like a lot of the factory teams are cutting down for 2018, what would you put that down to?
Marnicq Bervoets: It’s a question, you always have five really good years and then maybe five years not as good budget wise. Maybe they cut a bit of the budget, you don’t know what the people are thinking in the manufacturers.
On the other side, I see that Yamaha are pushing a lot for next year. They will have four and maybe five MXGP riders, three in MX2 and then you can see also in the European championship a few teams are running Yamaha’s. I think from Yamaha’s side they are doing really good. Husqvarna I think are running two riders in MXGP and two riders in MX2 so I don’t know. For sure it’s not good for the riders because there are not so many good places in the MXGP so it’s more difficult for the riders to get a good place.
Gatedrop: The official 2018 calendar hasn’t been released yet but what’s your thoughts on the provisional calendar?
Marnicq Bervoets: Yeah, it looks good actually for me. You know I think it’s a good calendar, it’s more in Europe and I like that. It’s better for the riders and also better for the teams but on the other hand, when we go to the overseas, like in Argentina for example. It’s a really good track and there’s so many spectators, you have good publicity and good atmosphere then it’s no problem to go over there. It’s a world championship and it’s good for the manufacturers.