Like many others, we have read the reports this week of HMC Ducati’s firing of rider Pascal Picotte from its AMA Superbike team. We don’t know all the facts — only Mitch Hansen at HMC Ducati and Pascal Picotte do. Nevertheless, based on what is reported, and appears to be uncontroverted, HMC did not handle this well.
The undisputed facts? Picotte rode the HMC Ducati extremely well, qualifying ahead of many factory riders at Daytona. Picotte is well liked and well respected as a rider. After Daytona, Picotte was notified by the team that he had been terminated. Phone calls by Picotte to Hansen in an effort to figure out what the hell had happened were never returned by Hansen. Hansen was talking to Doug Chandler about riding for HMC before Daytona. Doug Chandler will now ride the HMC Ducati (he will begin testing at Laguna Seca next week, and race the next AMA Superbike National in two weeks).
This situation immediately reminded me of the time Scott Russell left Muzzy Kawasaki many years ago for another opportunity — despite a commitment (although, perhaps, legally non-binding) to race for Muzzy on the Kawasaki superbike. Russell had an opportunity he thought he could not pass up with Suzuki in 500 GP. Russell left Muzzy high and dry, and Russell has indicated he regrets this decision in his career.
Picotte had a commitment from HMC for this season (although, perhaps, legally non-binding). Picotte is “high and dry” without a ride and, presumably, without a paycheck.
We think Doug Chandler is a class act. He has indicated he initially expected to be a second rider on the team, not a replacement for Picotte. These comments are in no way a negative reflection on Chandler, whatsoever. In our opinion, however, HMC and Mitch Hansen do not deserve to be successful in AMA Superbike this year. It is as simple as that — what comes around goes around.