Petronas SRT Confirm End Of Old Structure, Start Of New, But What Next?

It is not really news, after Petronas made the announcement in their press release stating they would be ending their sponsorship of the Sepang Racing Team, but today, the team officially announced the end of the current structure. At the end of the season, the Sepang International Circuit will close the Sepang Racing Team, and with it, the MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3 teams.

The MotoGP team will continue, however, though under new management. Team Principal Razlan Razali and Team Director Johan Stigefelt are to setup a new structure, the plans for which are to be announced at the Misano round of MotoGP, set to be held on September 16th. The Moto2 and Moto3 entries are to be abandoned, and only the MotoGP entry will be maintained.

Although the press release speaks of the title sponsor and team entity being announced at Misano, there is already a lot we know. The team is to have Italian utilities company WithU as its title sponsor, the company already a prominent backer of SRT.

As for riders, there are both media reports and paddock sources which believe the deal is already done for Andrea Dovizioso to take one of the two seats at the team for 2022. According to Italian media, the final details are being hammered out, mostly in an attempt to get the Italian an A-spec, 2022 Yamaha M1, something which sponsor WithU would be willing to back. The timing for that is a little late, as normally those decisions have to be taken by the end of June, but given that the news of Petronas' withdrawal only came at Austria in July, it is conceivable that Yamaha were already planning to provide a second A-spec bike to the team had Petronas remained as sponsor.

Dovizioso's move back to Yamaha came after attempts to conclude a deal with Aprilia failed at the last moment. The deal came very close indeed, so close that a press release had already been drawn up and accidentally published on one official Aprilia website. The link to the page has now been taken down, but the URL tells the story of the deal:

For Dovizioso, a deal with the WithU Yamaha team would be a return to the Japanese manufacturer after a long absence. Dovizioso raced for Yamaha in the Tech3 team for the 2012 season, after losing his seat at the Repsol Honda squad with the arrival of Casey Stoner. He left after just one season, to take the place of the departing Valentino Rossi at Ducati, who was in turn heading back to Yamaha. It was a successful year, with Dovizioso racking up 6 podiums for the Tech3 Yamaha squad.

Darryn Binder is likely to line up alongside the Italian in the WithU Yamaha team. The South African has been linked to the seat ever since Valentino Rossi announced he would be retiring at the end of the year. Binder is the best of the current Moto2 and Moto3 Petronas riders, and the rider with the most potential. It would be a major step for the South African, however, to jump directly from Moto3 to MotoGP. But with a young inexperienced rider and a competitive veteran, that could be the ideal situation for the new satellite team.

The new team is also a reorientation of the Petronas squad. When Petronas first took over the Yamaha satellite seats from Tech3, well-connected paddock sources insisted that the Petronas SRT team would eventually take over as the Yamaha factory effort. That looked plausible in 2019 and 2020, but those rumors faded away from the beginning of the year. A lack of results, unhappiness with having Valentino Rossi foisted on them, a decision not of their own making, and dissatisfaction with the negotiation with Yamaha over machinery for 2022 and beyond fractured the relationship between Yamaha and SRT.

Even as late as the middle of the season, Razlan Razali was saying that SRT's role was as a junior team to the factory squad. That would push them in the direction of choosing younger riders to prepare them for a move to the factory team. With Petronas gone, the Sepang Racing Team shuttered, and a new entity created under Razali and Stigefelt, it seems the team is destined to return to a role as a more traditional satellite squad after all.

The press release announcing the folding of the team appears below:

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team to conclude

PSRT to bid adieu at the end of 2021; a new beginning in store for 2022

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team will cease to be at the end of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.

The team, which is represented in Moto3 and Moto2 by PETRONAS Sprinta Racing and in MotoGP by PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team can confirm it will conclude all activities both racing and non-racing at the end of the 2021 World Championship season.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team Principal Razlan Razali and Team Director Johan Stigefelt will continue in the MotoGP category from 2022 onwards with a new entity. This new entity and title partner will be announced at the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini in Misano on September 16.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team in its current format was formed in 2018 to race in all categories of the MotoGP World Championship, from the 2019 season onwards. The team was supported in this by title sponsor across all three categories, PETRONAS, and the team’s owner, Sepang International Circuit.

In only its fourth race, the MotoGP squad was on the front row of the grid. Its first podium came after seven races. In 2020, the team took the first win for a satellite Yamaha MotoGP team in over 20 years and finished second in the overall Team Standings with rider Franco Morbidelli finishing second in the overall rider rankings and as Top Independent Rider. For 2021, the team was joined by the Greatest Of All Time rider, Valentino Rossi. Over the three years of its existence, PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team has achieved poles and podiums in all three MotoGP categories and wins in both Moto3 and MotoGP.

The team’s origin dates back to 2015 with M7 DRIVE SIC Racing Team in Moto3, which secured two podiums in its first season. Title partners PETRONAS came aboard in 2017, birthing the new PETRONAS Sprinta Racing banner with the squad growing to encompass Moto2 in 2018.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team would like to thank all its fans, crew, partners and riders for being part of the incredible journey. The team is dedicated to finishing the 2021 season in the best way possible.

Razlan Razali

We have experienced a remarkable voyage over the past years. From a small start in 2015 there was a great step for us in 2018 when we secured an entry to the premier class of MotoGP and built a MotoGP squad from scratch. In 2019 we were on the grid and just four races into our rookie season we were on the front row. By the seventh race we were on the podium. In 2020 we secured the first race win for a satellite Yamaha MotoGP team in over 20 years and finished second in the overall team and rider championships. In 2021 we raced with the Greatest Of All Time rider, Valentino Rossi. This is an incredible story.

The team will race its final race in Valencia and we thank all our crew, riders, fans and partners for their support. In particular, we thank PETRONAS, with whom none of this would have been possible. Together we pushed the PETRONAS brand and Malaysian expertise to the forefront of the grid and captured unprecedented brand exposure and coverage, exponentially surpassing all expectations.

We also thank Sepang International Circuit for their vision and support of upcoming Malaysian talent over a long period. Our collective dream was to have a Malaysian rider competing for podiums in the MotoGP World Championship. Sadly, we were not able to achieve this in the short life of our squad, but we can reflect upon tremendous success by every other measure.

Our final season has not reached its conclusion yet and we continue to strive for the very best results possible across all three classes. Thank you all.

Johan Stigefelt

Thank you to PETRONAS for the opportunity given over the past three years and everything we have achieved together. I am sad we were not able to continue this project as we established a great team across all three categories of MotoGP in such a short time and our vision was for this to be a long term project. We have worked with incredible personnel, fantastic riders and enjoyed the support of great partners and wonderful fans and we offer our heartfelt gratitude to them all.

Thank you also to Sepang International Circuit with whom the relationship goes back to 2015. Together we grew from a small two-rider Moto3 squad to one of the biggest teams to have ever existed in the MotoGP paddock. I am proud to have been part of this journey together and without Sepang International Circuit this would not have been possible.

As a squad, we achieved our first win, in Moto3, at Le Mans with John McPhee in 2019 and we had already taken our first pole position in MotoGP at the Spanish GP with Fabio Quartararo in Jerez that same year. We enjoyed six MotoGP race wins between Fabio and Franco Morbidelli in 2020. We have fabulous memories of the last three years, but now we look to the rest of this season to end the year in the best way possible.

In particular, I really want to thank everyone in the Moto2 and Moto3 squads who are not only colleagues but have become true friends over the past years. It is very hard for me to say goodbye to all these people especially as they have all been crucial contributors to our success and the structure we’ve built together over these years. I want to thank them all in particular.

For the future we have a new and exciting project. We remain in the paddock in MotoGP with new shirts to wear. But more of that later; for now we have the remaining races of the 2021 season to race as hard as possible. Thank you all.

PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team Stats *up to British GP 2021

MOTOGP category
12 poles
16 podiums
6 wins

1 pole position
1 podium

6 poles
12 podiums
2 wins

Sepang Racing Team Highlights

Sepang Racing Team is a unique entity in motorsport, encompassing MotoGP with PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team and both Moto2 and Moto3 with PETRONAS Sprinta Racing. The team’s beginnings in the World Championship go back to its first Moto3 entry in 2015, with expansion to Moto2 in 2017, and finally a MotoGP entry in 2019.

The teams are part of the operation of the world-renowned Sepang International Circuit, home to 19 Formula 1 Grands Prix and host of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix since 1999.

2019 was a remarkable debut MotoGP season for PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team with a tally of seven podium finishes plus six pole positions that secured the Independent Teams’ Championship title with riders Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo. Fabio proved to be the sensation of the year, earning the Rookie of the Year and Top Independent Rider titles.

In 2020, PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team successfully defended its Top Independent Team title by leading the overall team and rider standings for much of the year. Both Fabio and Franco took three wins over the course of the year, with Franco and the team taking the vice title by finishing second in the rider and team championships. The team’s first MotoGP win was the first for a satellite Yamaha MotoGP squad in over 20 years.

For 2021, Greatest Of All Time rider Valentino Rossi joined the squad alongside Franco.

In Moto3 with PETRONAS Sprinta Racing, John McPhee took Sepang Racing Team’s first World Championship Grand Prix victory after leading from pole in the French Grand Prix in 2019 and proved to be a championship contender in 2020. For 2021, John was joined by fellow Moto3 race winner, Darryn Binder.

For 2020, PETRONAS Sprinta Racing in Moto2 expanded to a two-bike line-up with Xavi Vierge and Jake Dixon both showing race-leading pace over the course of the year. Both riders remained in 2021.

Sepang Racing Team is infused with Malaysian talent to showcase this on a world stage, supported in this objective by title partner, PETRONAS, who bring their expertise, passion and prowess to the track.

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I'm guessing they asked Acosta after the Fernandez debacle and Pit Beirer laughed them out of the room?

It really seems KTM are the only people currently playing to win. I remember talk of Yamaha's lauded talent stream when Spies and Crutchlow moved up to the big leagues and it's been a comprehensive pant shitting exhibition outside of Lorenzo's 3 chips...

Paddock Wisdom: Create a talent pipeline with steps from Moto3, to Moto2 to MotoGP, KTM, Honda and Ducati have shown this works.

Iwata Management: Should we just sign a semi-retired Italian with no appetite for mismangment, and promote a rider directly from Moto3 to MotoGP?

Paddock Wisdom: No. Definitely not. None of that is correct! 

Iwata Management: Done and done!

Paddock Wisdom: Jesus. Okay, let's see how well that works out.

The truly hilarious thing is, if Quatararo wins the title this year, none of it matters, and Yamaha doesn't need to change a thing! We call that the "Suzuki MotoGP School of Rider Development" 

I'd love to know the conditions of these contracts. It's not good when 'streams' start to protect their own interests by corralling young riders into long term deals. The big tragedy wont be Yamaha losing will be the riders losing out their best years riding a relatively uncompetitive bike. I would hope there is at least some clause where KTM have to achieve results.

Aprilia has made a huge step in one year. They went from having droves of riders turn down the second seat for 2021 to having their pick between Viñales and Dovizioso for 2022. A. Espargaro's story is similar to Dovi's when he embraced the Ducati project back in 2013. All that's missing is some podiums. Go Espargaro!

^ Right?! Things got Silly.

Amazing that there are pictures now of Maverick in a Black "Oakley" shirt, and he is ON the Aprilia at Misano on next Tuesday.

Pretty amazing really. Now Yamaha has the late seat fill? And ORANGE of all projects has the double stacked talent stable?! They even just resigned Acosta today behind this armada, just to rub it in. And Ducati has several younger riders blasting off, none complaining about bike nor brass. Honda has the nightmare career ending bike?! 

Upside down and backwards 

Even stars collide, and out of their crashing, new worlds are born. (From a poem written by Kim McMillen and read by Charlie Chaplin on his 70th birthday).

From the sofa, Zeelenburg to Suzuki seems like a perfect fit at the perfect time.

Was wondering about Wilco myself while reading this article.

I assume the Suzuki thing is your thought? Not something that is actually on the table?

I agree that it would be a nice fit...

Dovi and Aprilia were so public with their flirtations, yet here we are with Dovi likely to end up on a satellite Yamaha. Quite a different expectation from even 2 weeks ago, and I hope we get more details on that sooner than later. Maybe it came down to cost? They probably got a discount on Mav after his Styrian shenanigans.

Razali has always impressed me as very good and very decent operator. That documentary that's floating around about the 2019 squad with Fabio and Franco underlined a team that was working in way both technical and human, and got fantastic performances out of both riders. I do hope they get A spec Yamahas and that the pilots end up being Andrea and Daryn. That will enhance the sport.

Rossi should have bought out SRT with Petronas sponsorship than relying on Team Bonesaw to come up with the readies!

Edited: with Zeellenberg attached to SRT

Looks like the door for Jake Dixon on a Yamaha Motogp bike has now closed. Wonder whether Dorna will be coughing up some $ for a ride in Moto2 or Motogp. And then there is John McPhee who is getting too for the class given he is up against riders 10 years yoinger than him.