Latest News

Maverick Viñales 'Happiest Ever' After Misano Test

Maverick Viñales has completed the first two days of his Aprilia career, riding the RS-GP for the first time at the Misano circuit. The Spaniard was very happy afterwards, in no small part because he was also fast. He ended the day with a fastest lap of 1'32.4, he told Catalan journalist Damià Aguilar. Earlier, Lucio Lopez of MotoRaceNation, present at the track, reported that Viñales had set a lap of 1'32.8 on a soft tire with 8 laps on.

How fast is that? To put Viñales' times into perspective, the race lap record is 1'32.319, set by Pecco Bagnaia in last year's Misano 2 race, while Viñales himself holds the pole record, with a time of 1'31.077 set at the same event.

The fact that Viñales holds the pole record at Misano is evidence that he is fast at the track, but to be close to the race lap record after just two days on the bike is a sign that he has adapted very quickly. Aprilia did not change the bike much for Viñales, using the chassis and electronics settings taken from Aleix Espargaro's bike.

Blissed out

Viñales himself was extremely happy when he spoke to the media after the test. The happiest he had been, "probably in my life!" he told us. "The time that I am the most happy, because after five years there [at Yamaha] doing ups and downs and we didn't understand many things, at the end you say 'what is going on?' But as soon as I jumped to Aprilia I know my potential, I know what I'm able to do even more."

He had tried to enter Aprilia as a blank slate. "I honestly went without expectation, because you never know how the bike is going to react," Viñales told us. "But I have to say that I was a bit nervous because I never tried a different engine. I was used to riding bikes that have an inline four and I didn't know how it would react, but I was quite surprised that how I adapted to the engine was quite easy and this is nice." The engine character helped make the switch easy. "Basically, the bike has a really [good] handling engine, which is very important also for a long race."

With Viñales set to make is race debut on the Aprilia in 10 days time at Aragon, replacing the injured Lorenzo Savadori, he feels this gives him a big head start on his first full season aboard the RS-GP in 2022. "It was nice to jump quick because I have the opportunity to do six races and this is much better than to do just five days of testing. I will try to prepare well, and also with Aleix, the 2022, which is very important for me."

Sooner than expected

Actually being able to race at Aragon had been unexpected. "I didn't expect it," Viñales said. "I expected to be at home waiting for November to test the bike, but this opportunity is made first of all because I left [Yamaha] and then because Aprilia give me the opportunity. So basically what makes me really happy is that all the guys are working very hard, the atmosphere is really strong and also coming from a podium is the best time, you know, to join the team and try to give them the feedback." Viñales praised the work of the current team as well. "For sure Aleix and Savadori made an amazing job because they ride very fast and the bike is working well. I was quite surprised because the adaptation to the bike has been quite fast."

That fast adaptation had persuaded him to try to start racing as quickly as possible. "I wanted to race as soon as I did three [runs] with the bike," Viñales told us. "I think it's the best way way to prepare for next year. Even if maybe I'm not ready because it's difficult on the riding style still to be at one with the bike because I was used to ride a completely different bike. But I think in Aragon I will understand a little bit more, also riding with Aleix, he is fast so I can learn quickly how the bike works. But I feel strong. I feel very strong and this is the positive point."

Adapting to a different bike also requires a change of riding style, Viñales explained. "What I need to change is the way of braking, it's a bit different. This is a big learning process because the way that you can brake with the Aprilia is totally different and for this I will need laps." His new teammate can help in that regard "Also Aleix is very hard braking and I will need to learn a little bit from him how he does that strong brake. But I think this will come with confidence. This is the important point."

Goals still to achieve

The split with Yamaha had not caused him to hang his head and give up hope, Viñales told us. His ambition did not stop burning. "You know after everything happened, the only thing I had in mind was to ride, keep riding, I will not give up! Until i get my objectives accomplished. So I keep going. I keep going very strong. I will push at my maximum already from the first lap in Aragon. I know my place in Aprilia for what it is so I need to push so much, I need to improve myself and I need to keep going."

Viñales was not surprised that Yamaha let him race the Aprilia this year. "No, it's fair. Everyone has to have the opportunity and to leave the things in the past," Viñales said. Yamaha also had something to gain, of course: in exchange for releasing Maverick Viñales, Aprilia could also release Andrea Dovizioso from his testing contract. That allows Yamaha to put the Italian on the Petronas Yamaha from the Misano race, and gives him five races to get up to speed for next year.

When the honeymoon is over.

That Maverick Viñales should be happy after two days on the bike is a positive sign, but it is also a natural consequence of having changed. The Spaniard was deeply unhappy in the Yamaha team, and had been for some time. A change of scenery brings a breath of fresh air, and the eagerness with which he was welcomed will have made him feel wanted, an important motivation for Viñales.

That he should be fast is also hardly a surprise. Viñales is the undisputed champion of winter testing, frequently topping each preseason and post-race test. He is fast when he can ride alone, and choose his own lines.

The real test will come when things get difficult. When Viñales has a bad weekend, or finds that he can't overtake during a race, or has a technical problem. Right now, the Spaniard is in the honeymoon period with Aprilia. But honeymoons come to an end, and then the real work of the relationship starts.

If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting You can help by either taking out a subscription, supporting us on Patreon, by making a donation, or contributing via our GoFundMe page. You can find out more about subscribing to here.


Back to top

Maverick Viñales To Replace Lorenzo Savadori At Aprilia From Aragon

Maverick Viñales testing the Aprilia RS-GP machine at Misano, August 31st 2021, photo copyright Aprilia

Maverick Viñales will race for Aprilia for the remainder of the 2021 MotoGP season. On Wednesday, Aprilia announced that the Spaniard would be racing the bike in the Gresini Aprilia team alongside Aleix Espargaro starting from the next race at the Motorland Aragon circuit.

The decision was taken after Viñales rode the bike at a two-day private test at Misano. The fact that the decision was taken after just the first day is a very positive sign for the Spaniard, that he is adapting quickly to the bike. It was of course made possible by the fact that Yamaha released Viñales from his contract after the fiasco at the Styria Grand Prix. The Grand Prix Commission also had to approve the substitution.

The decision also means that Lorenzo Savadori will revert to his role as test rider. The fact that Savadori was still in considerable pain after surgery to fix the ankle he broke in a crash with Dani Pedrosa in the opening laps of the Styria Grand Prix made it an easier choice. Savadori will compete in a number of wildcards later this season, once his ankle has healed.

The press release from Aprilia appears below:


All the pieces have now fallen in place for the Aprilia Racing rider line-up after Maverick Viñales’ début astride the RS-GP during the two days of testing on the Misano Adriatico circuit.

The Spanish rider, extremely impressed by the first contact with the Italian team, will be on the track officially from the Aragón GP, scheduled to be held on the weekend of 12 September. He will take a spot on the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini alongside Aleix Espargaró, who just brought the Noale-based manufacturer their first podium in MotoGP at Silverstone.

Lorenzo Savadori will therefore be confirmed as test rider for the 2022 season, completing an extremely high level trio with the goal of continuing to improve the young RS-GP project. For the rest of the 2021 season, his presence on the track will not be lacking, taking advantage of the wild cards Aprilia has available. Lorenzo’s work schedule will be formalised as soon as he has recovered fully from the injury suffered during the Styria GP, a fractured right malleolus that required surgery.


"We are extremely proud to be able to announce our plans for the current season and for 2022 with the goal of optimising the contributions of our three riders to the utmost. Alongside our confirmed rider, Aleix, it is our pleasure to welcome a talented athlete like Maverick to the Aprilia Racing team, who demonstrated a great feeling with the team and the bike straight away and who I am confident will be able to give his best as early as the Aragón GP. At the same time, we are also confirming Lorenzo’s role as 2022 test rider. This is a fundamental position that rewards the great efforts he has demonstrated in developing the new RS-GP, whereas he will finish out the 2021 season taking advantage of the wild cards that we’ll decide on together as soon as he is back to 100% fitness."


"The decision to have Maverick on the track from Aragón is a direct result of the tests done in Misano. It was not a given that, after a career spent up to now on a bike with an in-line engine, Maverick would have a good feeling with our V4 straight away. This is why the test on this track, historically not an easy one for our bike, was an important moment of assessment. Therefore, we are satisfied with Maverick’s immediately positive reactions, which demonstrated a good feeling both with the RS-GP and with the team and our work method. His and Aleix’s talent, combined with the experience Lorenzo has gained this season, make us optimistic about the future of our MotoGP project."


Back to top

Maverick Viñales Debuts For Aprilia, Morbidelli Rides R1 At Misano Test

It has been a busy day at the Misano circuit. At a private test organized by Ducati, Maverick Viñales got his first taste of the Aprilia RS-GP, Franco Morbidelli rode a superbike again for the first time, and factory test riders carried on with the work of testing developments on the MotoGP machines.

There was a surprisingly long list of riders on track at the test. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro was present, along with Johann Zarco, Pecco Bagnaia, and Luca Marini on Ducati Panigale V4 streetbikes. Stefan Bradl was testing the Honda RC213V MotoGP machine, Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio were present for KTM, Franco Morbidelli was riding a Yamaha R1, and Matteo Baiocco was alongside Maverick Viñales in the Aprilia garage.

All eyes were on the Aprilia garage, of course, where Maverick Viñales was riding the Aprilia RS-GP for the first time. The Spaniard completed a total of 65 laps, and posted that his best time was a 1'33.0 on his Instagram page. With no official times published, and no live timing, there is no way to verify that time. But to put it in perspective, the race lap record is 1'32.319, set by Pecco Bagnaia during the Misano 2 race last year. The pole record is 1'31.077, set by Maverick Viñales during qualifying for the same event, a race he went on to win.

Though no official statements were released, Italian broadcaster Sky was present, as were staff from Dorna. Speaking to the official website, Aprilia Technical Director Romano Albesiano described the test as "very positive".  "He didn't find any major issues or problems or discomfort," Albesiano said. "We're just working on some fine-tuning, suspension, tires. Normal work as if he had been riding this bike for a long time. So it's been really positive."

The website also have a short video of Viñales riding the bike for the first time. Very few conclusions can be drawn from it, especially given this is the first time on the Aprilia for Viñales.

Franco Morbidelli's return to riding a large-capacity motorcycle was also important. The Italian has not ridden since he withdrew after the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Since then, he has been recovering from surgery to fix a torn ACL and damaged meniscus. Morbidelli is expected to return to MotoGP at the Misano round on September 19th.

Back to top

2022 Preseason Test Dates Announced - Sepang And Indonesia Kick Off Season

Testing for the 2022 MotoGP season will kick off as normal at Sepang next year, but the preseason will look a little different. After a three-day shakedown test at the Sepang International Circuit, from January 31st to February 2nd, where test riders will put the 2022 bikes through their paces, and rookies will get an extended taste of the MotoGP machines.

The official IRTA test follows on February 5th and 6th, a two-day test instead of the usual three days. A week later, the paddock travels to Indonesia, for the first taste of the Mandalika International Street Circuit. The MotoGP riders get three days on that circuit, from 11th-13th of February.

The Moto2 and Moto3 riders will have one official preseason test. Moto2 and Moto3 will take to the track at Jerez from February 22nd to 24th.

The MotoGP season is then set to start in Qatar on March 6th. The Losail International Circuit announced the date on Social Media a couple of days ago. How the rest of the calendar plays out is still unknown, and will doubtless still be subject to some restrictions and change depending on how the pandemic plays out. But as vaccination rates increase, its influence should wane.

Sepang will not be the first time the riders get their hands on the 2022 bikes. A post-season test is planned at Jerez for November 16th and 17th, after the final MotoGP round at Valencia.

The preseason test calendar is shown below:

Circuit Dates Test
Sepang 31 Jan - 2 Feb Shakedown test MotoGP
Sepang 5-6 Feb Official MotoGP test
Mandalika 11-13 February Mandalika circuit first test MotoGP
Jerez 22-24 February Moto2 & Moto3 test

Back to top

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.

Back to top

Maverick Viñales To Test Aprilia At Misano, But What Happens After That?

The fallout from Maverick Viñales' precipitate departure from the Monster Energy Yamaha team continues to reshape 2022, and perhaps even 2021. First, Aprilia announced on the Monday after Austria that Viñales would be racing for them alongside Aleix Espargaro in 2022. Then, at the end of that week, Yamaha announced they would be terminating their contract with Viñales with immediate effect.

That has freed Viñales up to start working with Aprilia immediately. After persistent rumors, today, Aprilia announced that Maverick Viñales will be testing the Aprilia RS-GP at Misano on August 31st and September 1st. The Spaniard is to get an introduction to the bike in a private and calm setting, where he and the team can work through a program of testing and adaptation.

The test will be a chance to get to know the Aprilia engineers he will be working with going forward. The press release describes the test as marking "the start of Maverick's integration into the new structure that will accompany him throughout the 2022 season". It will be a chance for Aprilia to start assemble a crew Viñales could work with in 2022. Aprilia will be racing as a separate factory team, with Gresini becoming independent, so this is a chance to get a head start on that as well. Aleix Espargaro's team is expected to remain unchanged for 2022.

The test opens the door to Viñales making an early return to racing. Their only option, however, is if Aprilia decides to swap out Lorenzo Savadori and have Viñales complete the remainder of the 2021 season, while Savadori returns to testing duties. Aprilia also have six wildcard entries available to them, but wildcard entries must be submitted 90 days before the event. The final grand prix of 2021 is scheduled to be held at Valencia on November 14th, 80 days from now.

A wildcard entry at Misano would be impossible anyway. A special exemption has already been made to allow three instead of the usual two wildcards at the Misano round scheduled for September 19th. For KTM, Dani Pedrosa will be joining Honda's Stefan Bradl and Ducati's Michele Pirro at the Italian track.

The press release from Aprilia appears below:



Maverick Vinales' debut on the Aprilia RS-GP will take place on the Italian track at Misano Adriatico. The first contact between the Spanish rider and the Italian team is scheduled for two days of testing on 31 August - 1 September.

This marks the start of Maverick's integration into the new structure that will accompany him throughout the 2022 season, a gradual approach to the improved harmony that is essential in such an extraordinary championship as modern MotoGP.


"From a technical point of view, it is always fascinating to listen to the impressions of a rider who is testing your bike for the first time. Especially with a champion like Maverick, who we are pleased to welcome into the Aprilia Racing family. After the great work carried out on the track by the racing department over the last two years, we are adding yet another piece to the path of growth that we are undertaking with encouraging results. Clearly the first approach involves a very practical adaptation phase, in terms of ergonomics and setup, which we know vary for each rider. But I'm sure that Maverick's talent and speed will come to the fore right away and I can't wait to start working together".


Back to top

Maverick Viñales Out At Yamaha With Immediate Effect

The rocky relationship between Maverick Viñales and Yamaha has come to an early end. The Japanese factory announced today that they would be releasing Viñales from his contract effective immediately. Viñales is now free to start work with Aprilia, in theory at least.

The de facto sacking of Viñales is the end of a precipitous decline in the relationship between the two parties. The Spaniard signed on for two more years with Yamaha (for 2021 and 2022) very early, agreeing a new deal with Yamaha in January 2020, when Viñales was being hunted by Ducati.

Viñales had a difficult 2020 season, finishing 6th in the championship, though first of the riders on a 2020 Yamaha, and with one victory and two other podiums. 2021 started off well, with victory at Qatar, but the relationship went downhill from there. At Barcelona, Yamaha decided to switch crew chiefs, bringing in Silvano Galbusera to replace Esteban Garcia. At the Sachsenring, Viñales finished last, and in the week between the German and Dutch MotoGP rounds, he decided to leave Yamaha a year early.

Viñales returned in relatively good shape after the summer break, but a series of problems during the restarted race, including starting from pit lane,  at the Styrian Grand Prix (Austria 1) left him frustrated. He took out his frustration by overrevving his M1 on the last four laps of the race, holding the bike in fifth and on the limiter on each of the Red Bull Ring's straights, an action which could easily have damaged the engine.

Yamaha took those actions extremely seriously, and personally. Japanese factories take a very dim view of intentionally damaging the bikes they build, and this seems to have been the last straw. At a meeting of the executive board in Japan on Thursday, the decision was taken to terminate the contract immediately. In effect, Viñales was sacked.

There are parallels with what happened between Johann Zarco and KTM in 2019. There, too, Zarco announced he wanted to get out of his contract a year early. And two races later, after Zarco had made some very critical remarks about the RC16, KTM announced they would be releasing him from his contract.

This feels different, however. At the core of the Yamaha-Viñales split is an absolute lack of trust and confidence, with neither party trusting the other. Viñales appears to have lost confidence in Yamaha much earlier this year, while Yamaha's frustration with Viñales has been growing since the beginning of the year. The Spaniard was brought in to Yamaha to replace Jorge Lorenzo and try to win the MotoGP title. Despite winning races, he has never looked like being a consistent title contender.

The move frees Viñales up to take the place of Lorenzo Savadori at Aprilia. Whether that happens remains to be seen: jumping straight off a Yamaha onto a very different motorcycle like the Aprilia RS-GP is no simple swap.

What teams and riders want to do when changing machines is to be able to take their time doing several laps at a time with no time pressure, to evaluate and understand a new machine. Three 45-minute sessions, one 30-minute session, and the pressure of qualifying and the race are a far from ideal environment for learning to understand a bike. However, if Viñales and Aprilia can approach it as getting an early jump on testing for 2022, that would reduce some of the pressure on him.

The sacking of Viñales leaves Yamaha with a hole to fill. The most obvious move would be to put Cal Crutchlow on the bike for the rest of the year, though that would disrupt the British rider's testing program, which is ostensibly why he was hired. Yamaha may face pressure to put Valentino Rossi on the bike for the final part of his final season in MotoGP. That would create a raft of complications, however, especially with sponsors of the Petronas Yamaha SRT team, who were paying to see their names on Rossi's bike. Furthermore, with Petronas and Eneos (who sponsor Yamaha) rival oil companies, that would make it almost impossible contractually. Petronas could then use the second seat to test out some of their riders from Moto2 and Moto3 on the bike.

That might be unusual, but we have seen some extraordinarily unusual things in MotoGP this year. So we can't rule anything out.

The Yamaha press release appears below:


Yamaha and Maverick Viñales have mutually decided to advance their separation and end their previous 2021 agreement with immediate effect.

Gerno di Lesmo (Italy), 20th August 2021

After the Dutch GP (28 June 2021) it was announced that Yamaha and Maverick Viñales would bring their two-year contract for 2021-2022 to an early closure at the end of the current MotoGP season.

Following recent events at the Styrian GP and after deep consideration by both parties, the mutual decision was reached to separate with immediate effect.


“In Assen Yamaha and Viñales already announced the mutual decision to cut short their original 2021-2022 programme and to finish it at the end of 2021. A commitment was made by both rider and team to continue to the end of the current season, with the team guaranteeing its full support and the rider giving his maximum efforts so that we could finish the project ’in style‘.

“Regretfully at the Styrian GP the race did not go well or end well and consequently after deep consideration by both parties, the mutual decision was reached that it would be better for both parties if we end the partnership earlier. The early separation will release the rider to be free to follow his chosen future direction and will also permit the team to focus its efforts on the remaining races of the 2021 season with a replacement rider – yet to be determined.

“I would like to express Yamaha‘s sincere gratitude to Maverick. Yamaha will continue to cherish the good memories and appreciate the work both parties put into the 4.5 years spent together that brought us 8 race victories, 24 podiums, and two third places in the 2017 and 2019 overall rider standings.

“We wish Maverick all the very best in his future endeavours.”


“Following our mutual decision in Assen to part ways a year early, it was also decided to commit to completing the current season with maximum effort from both sides. However, at the Styrian GP the race didn‘t turn out as we had hoped, and regrettably it did not end well.

“After thorough consideration both parties have agreed it would be best to end the partnership with immediate effect.

“I am deeply grateful to Yamaha for the great opportunity. I am also thankful for the support they gave me during these 4.5 years of racing and will look back with pride on the results we achieved together.

“I will always have great respect for Yamaha and wish them the very best.”


Back to top

2021 MotoGP Calendar Update: Sepang Canceled, Second Race At Misano, Austin Still On

There has been yet another change to the MotoGP calendar for 2021. As had been expected, the Malaysian Grand Prix scheduled for October 24th at the Sepang International Circuit has been canceled. In its place will be an extra race at the Misano circuit in Italy. Misano will be the second circuit, after Portimão, which will two races this year but not back to back. Unlike the Portuguese circuit, however, Misano will host its second race five weeks after the first, rather than six months later.

This change looks like being the final alteration to the 2020 calendar. Despite the fact that the Covid-19 outbreak in Texas has placed serious demands on hospital capacity, with ICU beds now 99% occupied, understands that there is a huge push inside Dorna to make the Austin race happen. The Circuit of The Americas and the county and state governments are also assisting in pushing the race to take place.

This would bring the calendar up to 19 MotoGP events in 2021, only one shy of the planned 20 races. Though the calendar still contains a final TBC (to be confirmed) round, this seems very unlikely to take place.

The updated calendar appears below:

Date Grand prix Circuit
28 March Qatar* Losail International Circuit
4 April Qatar* Losail International Circuit
18 April Portugal Algarve International Circuit
02 May Spain Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto
16 May France Le Mans
30 May Italy Autodromo del Mugello
06 June Catalunya Barcelona - Catalunya
20 June Netherlands TT Circuit Assen
27 June Germany Sachsenring
8 August Styria Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
15 August Austria Red Bull Ring-Spielberg
29 August Great Britain Silverstone
12 September Aragón MotorLand Aragón
19 September San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
03 October Americas Circuit of the Americas
24 October TBC Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
7 November Algarve Algarve International Circuit
14 November Comunitat Valenciana Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo
tbc tbc tbc
Postponed Grands Prix to be rescheduled subject to the pandemic:
Grand prix Circuit
República Argentina Termas de Río Hondo
Reserve Grand Prix Venues:
Indonesia** Mandalika International Street Circuit

* Evening Race
** Subject to Homologation

There will be a maximum of 20 events in the 2021 season. All dates, events and the attendance of spectators are subject to the evolution of the pandemic and the approval of the corresponding Governments and authorities.

Malaysian GP cancelled and replaced by a Grand Prix at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports regret to announce the cancellation of the Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, which was set to take place at Sepang International Circuit from the 22nd to the 24th of October.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting entry restrictions for Malaysia oblige the cancellation of the event.

The FIM MotoGP™ World Championship looks forward to returning to Sepang in 2022 to race in front of our dedicated Malaysian fans.

The FIM, IRTA and Dorna Sports are pleased to confirm that MotoGP™ will return to Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli from the 22nd to the 24th of October, the weekend previously scheduled for the Malaysian GP, for a second Grand Prix at the classic Italian track. The name of this event will be announced in due course.

The date for the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini remains unchanged.


Back to top

Maverick Viñales Confirmed With Aprilia For 2022, Option For 2023

Aprilia have confirmed that Maverick Viñales will be joining the Italian factory for the 2022 MotoGP season, with an option to continue for 2023. The Spaniard will join Aleix Espargaro in the Aprilia Racing factory team once Viñales' contract with Yamaha expires at the end of the current year.

The news had been widely expected, after Viñales made a shock announcement just after the Assen round that he would be leaving Yamaha at the end of 2021, halfway through his two-year contract. Rumors linking Viñales to Aprilia emerged during the Assen round, as rumors of the split with Yamaha leaked that weekend.

The deal had been a long time in the making, however. The announcement had been expected in the week ahead of the first race at the Red Bull Ring over a week ago. The news that Yamaha had suspended Viñales for the second Austria round after he had intentionally over-revved his Yamaha M1 during the Styria race cast further doubt on the deal. But that has not proved to be an obstacle.

Aprilia is hoping that Maverick Viñales is the last piece of the puzzle for the Noale factory. Having a proven top rider alongside Aleix Espargaro is what they wanted to help the Aprilia RS-GP make the next step to becoming a podium-worthy motorcycle.

They have had a difficult run with second riders, of their own making, for the most part. Sam Lowes and Scott Redding were given a single year to prove themselves, and never appeared to enjoy the support of the management which Espargaro seemed to have. Andrea Iannone got off to a rocky start with Aprilia, and never made the impact that the factory hoped, only to be suspended for a doping infractoin at the end of his first year.

Whether Maverick Viñales will fare any better is the big unknown. The Spaniard is unquestionably talented, but has not proved easy to work with, going through three crew chiefs in his five season with Yamaha. In the right environment, Viñales can thrive. Aprilia will have to work to create that environment.

The press release appears below:



It is with great pleasure that Aprilia welcomes Maverick Viñales to the Aprilia Racing factory team.

This completes the official team for the 2022 MotoGP season, with Maverick coming alongside Aleix Espargaró astride the RS-GP. The Spanish rider has signed an annual contract with an option for renewal.

The signing of Viñales is another step in the Italian team's growth and development strategy, which comes just in the year of the transition to a factory team. Two events that testify to Aprilia's desire to continue to grow in the top category of world motorcycling.

Born in 1995, Maverick Viñales made his début in World Championship GP Motorcycle Racing in 2011 astride an Aprilia in the 125 category, taking 4 wins and 5 podiums, making him the best rookie of the season and finishing third overall. After another high-level season, he won the Moto3 World Title in 2013 before moving up to Moto2 the next season. Thanks to the potential demonstrated in the intermediate class, he earned a seat in MotoGP from the 2015 season with Suzuki and on Yamaha from 2017.

In the premier class Viñales has taken 9 wins, 13 pole positions and 28 podium finishes, in addition to two overall third places as his best final placement in the rider standings.


"We are extremely happy to announce that we have signed Maverick Viñales, a very high-level rider and one of the purest talents in the premier category. Our project has now been enriched with the value that Maverick brings - a World Champion who has confirmed his talent as a top rider in MotoGP - at a time of great change, after bringing a completely revamped bike to the track and having consistently established ourselves in the group of protagonists, we are also facing a switch in status as a Factory Team now, in order to take Aprilia to success. We are honoured to be able to make all of our best skills available to Viñales along with our enthusiasm and our passion. I am confident that, like Aleix, he will embrace this extremely high-potential project. The arrival of Maverick in no way distances Lorenzo Savadori from the team, as he will remain an integral part of the Aprilia Racing family."


Back to top

Official: Petronas Ends Sponsorship Of SRT Team, New Structure To Be Created

Petronas are to end their sponsorship of the Sepang Racing Team at the end of 2021. The news had been reported for a couple of days, but this morning, an official press release came from the Sepang International Circuit announcing the news officially.

Petronas had been title sponsor to the team since 2018, when they only had teams in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes. The next year, they increased the  budget to allow them to expand into MotoGP. Three seasons later, they are pulling out of sponsorship once again.

The consequences of this have yet to be announced. The team is set to make an official announcement at Silverstone, in two weeks time. But the team is expected to be reducing their presence in the MotoGP paddock to just the MotoGP team, closing their Moto2 and Moto3 teams.

Alongside big news about Petronas ending their sponsorship, the press release contains a statement which could turn out to be almost as significant. "The team is expected to make an announcement regarding its continuation in MotoGP™ from 2022 onwards under a new independent entity," the press release reads. Just what this entails is not entirely clear, but it would seem to suggest that the team will be severing its ties with the circuit.

The team was first launched back in 2014, as the AirAsia Caterham team, run by Johan Stigefelt with backing from Malaysian budget airline AirAsia, fielding riders Johann Zarco and Josh Herrin. The team was then bought out by the Sepang International Circuit ahead of the 2015 season, where they diversified into the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, with the objective of bringing Malaysian riders into the class.

That objective has been hard to realize. After a string of Malaysian riders, including Hafizh Syahrin and Zulfahmi Khairuddin, this year, they have no Malaysian riders at all, preferring to challenge for wins and championships in all three classes. That seemed like a solid strategy, given the results of the 2020 season, but it has not played out that way. A switch back to supporting Malaysians is difficult, with so few obvious talents on the horizon.

The situation has been compounded by the difficult financial straits that Sepang, like all major race tracks, find themselves in. The global pandemic has caused large-scale public events to be closed down, devastating the incomes of race tracks and other sporting arenas. If the SRT team is not developing Malaysian talent, and the circuit is in financial difficulties, it makes little sense to retain the racing team.

We will have to wait until Silverstone to get full details of what the future will look like for the team.

The press release from Sepang International Circuit appears below:


14 August 2021 - Sepang International Circuit Sdn Bhd (SIC) and PETRONAS wish to announce today that both parties have mutually agreed to end their partnership in relation to the Title Partnership of the PETRONAS Sepang Racing Team. The partnership will end at the conclusion of the 2021 MotoGP™ season.

PETRONAS has been the Title Partner to SIC since 2018, through the PETRONAS Sprinta Racing in Moto2™ and Moto3™. The project was expanded to MotoGP™ in 2019 via PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team.

Further to this development, the team is expected to make an announcement regarding its continuation in MotoGP™ from 2022 onwards under a new independent entity.

Chief Executive Officer of SIC, Azhan Shafriman Hanif said, “SIC wishes to thank PETRONAS for the unwavering support during the partnership and a remarkable journey together. We respect PETRONAS’ decision, and mutually agreed that this partnership has accomplished its purpose and objectives. We have enjoyed a meaningful partnership, with great achievements and memorable moments with the team. I believe this is not the end of our collaboration in motorsports as we continue our quest in nurturing Malaysia’s motorsports talents.”

“SIC is proud to have been involved in the formation and early development of the team that had surpassed expectations in its performance. We wish the team all the best in the next phase of its evolution under a new entity.”

PETRONAS’ Head of Strategic Communications, Datin Anita Azrina Abdul Aziz said, “We entered into this partnership with SIC to showcase our R&D capabilities, and we are proud that PETRONAS Fluid Technology Solutions have been instrumental towards establishing the team's status as a championship contender. Together, we have created some standout moments in the sport, serving as an indication that we have achieved what we set out to do and we feel it is the right time for us to conclude the partnership. On behalf of PETRONAS, we would like to express our gratitude to SIC for their commitment towards ensuring the success of the partnership.”


Back to top