Picotte Responds to HMC Termination

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Motorcycle Online's God-like reporter Larry Lawrence reached Pascal Picotte this morning from his home in Montreal and he said that he just learned of his release from the HMC Ducati Superbike team late last (Sunday) night. His manager Alan Labrosse gave him the bad news. Picotte seemed to still be in shock Monday morning. He spoke in almost frantic tones at times as he tried to reconcile with this unexpected turn of events...

Picotte shocked by his release from HMC Ducati
Picotte is a 10-year veteran of the AMA Superbike Series and earned an AMA national championship in the Pro Twins class (now Pro Thunder) in 1992. He is a three-time AMA Superbike national winner and has won numerous AMA Supersport races in both 600 and 750cc classes. He was a four-year member of the now defunct Harley-Davidson Superbike team. The Canadian showed great speed at Daytona on the HMC Ducati, qualifying fifth and under the old track record despite having very little seat time on the new 998.

"I don't understand what happened," said Picotte. "Alan called me last night and told me that I had been released by the team. It's a complete shock to me. I felt that Mitch (Hansen) was a good person. I trusted him and even though we only had a verbal agreement, I felt optimistic about my future on the team."

Picotte said there was no indication that his spot on the team was in any jeopardy after Daytona.

"I was running great and then the transmission went out," Picotte explained. "Mitch came up to me and hugged me after the race and told me how great of a job I had done and that I was the right person for the team. I was a little frustrated by what happened, but I didn't blame the team at all. Parts break - it's just one of those things that happen in racing."

When pressed further about how he felt the HMC Ducati team was structured Picotte said there were some minor problems, but emphasized he thought it could all be worked out.

"Mitch asked me if I thought the team needed an established crew chief," Picotte said. "He brought up the name of Gary Medley and I said I thought that would be a good idea. He told me who ever I thought we should get that he would do what it took to hire them."

Mitch Hansen, reached by phone Monday morning, said he just felt the chemistry wasn't right.

"I grew up around football and a team can have great individual players and coaches, but if it doesn't have the proper chemistry you're not going to have success," Hansen said.

Picotte was mystified by this claimed 'chemistry' aspect of the team.

"I don't know what he means by that," said Picotte. "They were telling me I was the right person for the job, that's all I know. I go to Daytona, with very little seat time, and just barely miss getting on the front row by a few tenths. I simply don't know what else I could have done."

Another area that the two differ was on what was agreed upon in their verbal agreement. Picotte claims he had a commitment from the HMC for the entire season, while Hansen said they did not.

"I wouldn't have joined a team unless it was for the entire season," claims Picotte. "That wouldn't make any sense. Mitch and Alan were supposed to be drawing up a written agreement. I don't know where they were with that. My job was to race the motorcycle. Again, I trusted Mitch so I wasn't that worried about it. I was just happy to be back on a competitive motorcycle. Even the head of Ducati told me at Daytona that I was the right person for the job. The Italians were very much behind the effort. We had awesome factory motors and everything. I just don't understand why this happened. I definitely was told that I would be with the team for the 2002 season."

Picotte said the only thing in his mind that would cause the team to go in another direction is that a rider might have come to the team with sponsorship money.

When asked if the team had another rider lined up for the upcoming race in Fontana, Calif., Hansen replied not yet. "I would like to take care of one situation first and then go on to the rest of the season. We would like to announce something by the end of the week," he added.

"He (Pascal) is a great guy and a great rider, but the fit wasn't there," Hansen reiterated. "I can't really explain why. It wasn't his fault, it wasn't our fault. I'm just a big believer in the chemistry of the team and I just didn't see it there."

When asked if there was any friction because of the bike failure at Daytona Hansen echoed what Picotte said earlier.

"No," he just said, "Hey, Daytona has always been unlucky for me," said Hansen of Picotte's comments after the race. "We just chalked it up to bad luck. It was a ten-dollar spring that broke on the shifting linkage that wouldn't allow him to shift out of third. I'm not blaming him in any way.

"I hope he gets another ride because he deserves another ride. He's a great rider and a great guy and I wish nothing but the best for him."

Hansen denied Picotte's assertion that a new rider was bringing in sponsor dollars.

"No, that's not a requirement," Hansen claimed. "We're just going to try to find the best rider that we can and hopefully we can go out there and be on the podium many times this year, because it's important for Ducati to have success."

Picotte said that if there were problems on the team he wasn't aware of it.

"They could have called and talked to me," Picotte said. "We could have tried to fix whatever might have been wrong."

Picotte concluded by leaving the door open for him to continue with HMC.

"Mitch said he wanted a two-rider team," said Picotte. "They have two bikes. I'll race for purse money. I just want the chance to prove I can still win."

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