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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
Source: 

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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: https://www.aprilia.com/at_DE/aprilia-world/racing/andrea-dovizioso-to-r...

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

Moto2
1 pole position
1 podium

Moto3
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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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 WILL MAKE HIS DEBUT ON THE APRILIA RS-GP AT MISANO

TWO-DAY TEST FOR THE SPANISH RIDER ON 31 AUGUST - 1 SEPTEMBER

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.

ROMANO ALBESIANO - APRILIA RACING TECHNICAL MANAGER

"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".

Source: 

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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 END 2021 AGREEMENT WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT

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.

LIN JARVIS - MANAGING DIRECTOR, YAMAHA MOTOR RACING

“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.”

MAVERICK VIÑALES - MOTOGP RIDER

“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.”

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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, MotoMatters.com 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.

Source: 

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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:


MAVERICK VIÑALES TO RACE WITH APRILIA IN 2022

ON THE OCCASION OF ITS RETURN TO MOTOGP AS A FACTORY TEAM, APRILIA WELCOMES A GREAT CHAMPION TO JOIN ALEIX ESPARGARÓ: WELCOME MAVERICK!

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.

MASSIMO RIVOLA - APRILIA RACING CEO

"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."

Source: 

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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:


NON-RENEWAL OF TITLE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT AND PETRONAS

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.”

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Yamaha Suspends Maverick Viñales For Austrian GP For "Irregular Operation" - But What Exactly Did He Do?

Yamaha has suspended Maverick Viñales from participating in this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. In a press release issued today, the Monster Energy Yamaha said Viñales had been suspended for "the unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle by the rider during last weekend's Styria MotoGP race".

According to Yamaha, this behavior was visible in the data logged by the Yamaha M1, and that data forced Yamaha to draw the conclusion that "the rider‘s actions could have potentially caused significant damage to the engine of his YZR-M1 bike which could have caused serious risks to the rider himself and possibly posed a danger to all other riders in the MotoGP race".

Though Yamaha would not expand on this statement when asked, the behavior they are referring to is clear from reports by people at the track, and is visible in the lap times. Photographers present in that part of the circuit say that for the last four laps or so, they heard Viñales leaving the bike in fifth gear at the end of the straight, and only changing up into sixth just before Turn 1.

This explanation of events is clear from the lap chart. Below are the lap times from the analysis PDF on the MotoGP.com results web page, with the last four laps highlighted. You can see that especially in Sectors 1 and 2 – containing the end of the front straight, the climb up the hill to Turn 3, and the sections between Turns 3 and 4 – Viñales is on average nearly 2 seconds down than on his laps at a more 'normal' pace.

You can also see that his top speed – measured just before Turn 2 up the hill – is nearly 30 km/h down, a consequence, most likely, of either poor drive out of Turn 1 or holding the bike in fifth rather than changing up into sixth. From his times, it looks like Viñales was holding the bike in lower gears for much longer than necessary on just about every straight on the track.

Lap # Time T1 T2 T3 T4 Top speed
18 1'25.137 17.382 26.725 24.283 16.747 307.6
19 1'27.281 17.902 27.282 25.108 16.989 304.2
20 1'25.613 17.514 26.942 24.413 16.744 305.9
21 1'25.926 17.500 26.940 24.482 17.004 305.0
22 1'25.933 17.544 27.025 24.472 16.892 305.9
23 1'25.974 17.478 27.021 24.293 17.182 305.9
24 1'30.320 17.936 28.533 25.768 18.083 301.6
25 1'31.830 19.145 29.562 25.718 17.405 274.1
26 1'30.654 18.711 29.420 25.189 17.334 287.2
27 1'37.361 18.359 29.044 27.190 22.768 287.2

Why would a MotoGP rider deliberately mistreat their engine? The relationship between Viñales and Yamaha has been souring for a long time. The Spaniard has repeatedly expressed his frustration with the bike and with the team. Yamaha tried to fix the problems Viñales was having by changing crew chiefs, bringing in Silvano Galbusera instead of Esteban Garcia, but that was only a temporary fix.

After a dramatic result at the Sachsenring, where Viñales finished last, a week later, at Assen, the Spaniard announced he would be leaving Yamaha at the end of 2021, getting out of his contract a year early. Ironically, the announcement came on Sunday, after Viñales had just finished second behind his teammate.

On Sunday after the Styrian round of MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring, Viñales was once again frustrated. The Spaniard had gotten off to a good start in the first race, but he stalled his bike on the grid when the warm up lap commenced before the restarted race. He then pushed his bike into pit lane, had to start from pit lane exit, and complained of strange bike behavior and and electronics problems all race, including erroneous messages on his dashboard.

"Basically, I had a few problems on the bike," Viñales had told us after the race. "I don't know why, but nearly all the laps I had "pit lane" [on the dashboard], like going in. And I didn't understand anything. And my dashboard was saying, "pit lane", "pit lane", so I didn't start. And I don't know why, but the anti-wheelie was working badly, and I just went. Also I was out of the points, and I just saw "pit lane", "pit lane". So maybe I thought I had a failure or something, and I went in."

Viñales also complained of electronics issues on the bike, a repeat of problems during qualifying. "Honestly speaking, for me, in the second race, the same thing happened as in the qualifying. I don't know why, but when I opened the gas, the bike was making failing, like 'boh-boh-boh-boh', so I don't know why. So I thought I had some kind of problem, but I kept running and running and running and it was OK, but in the last laps, I don't know why, it kept doing it more."

It is possible that Viñales' frustration had grown so great that he took it out on the Yamaha M1. Requests to Yamaha for confirmation of the dashboard messages reported by Viñales were refused, a spokesperson saying they were studying the data and had nothing to add to the statement they had issued.

This is not the first time Viñales has found himself in difficulties with a team. During his 2012 Moto3 campaign, Viñales decided to quit the Blusens Avintia team at Sepang, citing a lack of support and a lack of professionalism. Meetings with lawyers back at home saw him return to racing the next round at Phillip Island, and switching to the Team Calvo squad aboard a KTM, and going on to win the 2013 Moto3 title.

It is deeply unusual for a rider to be suspended by their team. It has only happened a handful of times – Romano Fenati after the Misano incident with Stefano Manzi in 2018, John Hopkins in Misano in 2008 – and it usually takes something extreme for it to happen. This particular incident looks to be the most serious split of the lot.

The Yamaha statement says that Viñales will not be replaced at the Red Bull Ring this weekend – his crew are already on their way home – and that "decisions regarding the future races will be taken after a more detailed analysis of the situation and further discussions between Yamaha and the rider". It seems unlikely that Viñales will be back in the Yamaha garage for the remainder of the season.

Who Yamaha find to replace him with is open to question. The most likely scenario, if Viñales does not return, is for Yamaha to bring in a rider from WorldSBK – most likely Garrett Gerloff – for the race at Silverstone, then swap test rider Cal Crutchlow into the factory team for the remainder of 2021. That is not a decision we will see this weekend, however.

What this means for Maverick Viñales' future is also open to question. It was widely expected that Aprilia would be announcing they have hired Viñales to race alongside Aleix Espargaro in 2022. How Aprilia feels about Viñales, and whether this situation has jeopardized that deal, should become apparent quite quickly.

The press release from Yamaha appears below:


MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP STATEMENT
Spielberg (Austria), 12th August 2021

Yamaha regrets to announce that Maverick Viñales‘ entry to this weekend‘s Austrian MotoGP event has been withdrawn by the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team.

The absence follows the suspension of the rider by Yamaha due to the unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle by the rider during last weekend‘s Styria MotoGP race.

Yamaha‘s decision follows an in-depth analysis of telemetry and data over the last days.

Yamaha‘s conclusion is that the rider‘s actions could have potentially caused significant damage to the engine of his YZR-M1 bike which could have caused serious risks to the rider himself and possibly posed a danger to all other riders in the MotoGP race.

The rider will not be replaced at the Austrian GP.

Decisions regarding the future races will be taken after a more detailed analysis of the situation and further discussions between Yamaha and the rider.


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Raul Fernandez Confirmed To Join Tech3 KTM In MotoGP For 2022

KTM has officially confirmed that Raul Fernandez will be moving up to MotoGP in 2022, racing for the Tech3 KTM team. The Spaniard has been rewarded for a sensational rookie campaign in Moto2 with a promotion to MotoGP.

That Fernandez would move up to MotoGP was an open secret. The only question was the timing of the announcement. But KTM had to fight to keep the Spaniard, after Yamaha had attempted to poach him for the Petronas team.

With Fernandez joining current Moto2 Ajo teammate Remy Gardner in Tech3, the current line up of Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona are set to lose their places in MotoGP. Lecuona has been linked to a move back to Moto2, while Petrucci is widely tipped to move to the WorldSBK series, where he could make a return to Ducati.

Fernandez' signing,  confirmation this morning that Franco Morbidelli will be moving up to the factory Yamaha team, and Maverick Viñales widely tipped to go to Aprilia means there are three seats still left open in MotoGP for 2022. There are two seats vacant at Petronas Yamaha, though one of them could be occupied by Marco Bezzecchi, and one seat at the new VR46 team alongside Luca Marini.

The official press release appears below:


Raul Fernandez completes 2022 MotoGP™ Tech3 KTM Factory Racing roster

2021 MotoGP news

The current Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto2™ star makes the final step of the KTM GP Academy trajectory to join present teammate Remy Gardner on the Tech3 KTM Factory Racing RC16 next season.

Two wins and four podiums in two seasons of Moto3™ and three victories with a total of six trophies to-date in Moto2: 20-year-old Raul Fernandez will continue his climb to the peak of MotoGP with aTech3 KTM Factory Racing saddle next year.

The Spaniard, along with Australian Remy Gardner, has been the dominant force as part of Aki Ajo’s Red Bull KTM Ajo team in Moto2 after graduating from the KTM RC4 in Moto3 during 2020. He sits 2nd behind Gardner in the championship at the mid-point of the campaign and on the eve of race day at the Michelin Grand Prix of Styria. Fernandez’ adaptation to the demands of Moto2 and his continuing fast development as a professional GP rider has helped KTM race management take the decision to elevate #25 to the premier class.

KTM’s MotoGP wing for 2022 is set as Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will field Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira, and Tech3 KTM Factory Racing will work with the rookie Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner.

Raul Fernandez: “Honestly, I’m really pleased with this opportunity from KTM, as much for this year as for the next. I’ve been learning a lot and enjoying Moto2 and was able to get into a position where I have this chance to enter MotoGP and for which I’m very grateful: it’s the dream of any rider to arrive to this class. Right now, the most important thing is to keep focusing on this season and giving all I have up until the last race to try and fight for the championship. If it doesn’t work out then fine, everything happens for a reason, and you have to look towards the positives. I’ve been a rookie this year and I want to close the chapter and then start again for 2022 where I’ll be looking to find a good feeling on the bike and, above all, aiming to enjoy myself.”

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “I’m happy to announce that Raul will move into the MotoGP class with us, and this further proves that our KTM GP Academy project is working from the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup all the way to MotoGP. We all know that Raul is an outstanding talent. His jump from Moto3 to Moto2 had some question marks but he showed repeatedly that he is an excellent rider on the bigger bike, which was our original thought and hope because he was quite tall for Moto3. Going to MotoGP so quickly wasn’t part of the initial plan but he has demonstrated that he has the potential. The Moto2 line-up at the moment with Remy is like a dream team, so to move both of them to the premier class makes it very strong and means we now have riders for MotoGP that have come through our system. We had – and still have - a similar ‘dream team’ with Brad and Miguel and now we can repeat the same story with another Moto2 line-up. If you know the guys, their background and how they work and how they feel in the KTM surroundings then it makes the whole effort stronger.”

Hervé Poncharal, Tech3 KTM Factory Racing Team Principal: “We are delighted, proud and excited to welcome Raul Fernandez next to Remy Gardner. I think it’s going to be a very exciting 2022 season with the two of the brightest talents of the Moto2 category moving to the premier class. Even though it will be their rookie season, I’m quite sure they will quickly learn and after a few races show their potential in the MotoGP as well. Raul has had an unbelievable first part of his rookie Moto2 season, something that has not been achieved in a long time. Although we are very pleased with this announcement we know we still have half a season to go with our current riders, Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona, which I want to thank for their dedication and their never-ending constructive attitude, and, we clearly wish them well and best of luck for the future.”

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Franco Morbidelli To Move Up To The Monster Energy Yamaha Team For 2022

Franco Morbidelli is to race for the Monster Energy Yamaha team next year. Speaking to MotoMatters.com, Yamaha Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis confirmed that the Italian is to move up to the factory team for the 2022 season, once the details of the contract have been sorted out.

Jarvis was speaking to us as part of a much larger interview to be published after the Austrian round of MotoGP. Morbidelli's move to the factory team is a result of a situation which was hard to imagine at the start of the 2021 season. Back in January, Yamaha looked to have one of the strongest rider line ups in MotoGP.

"It's a kind of a unique situation," Jarvis said. "If you look at how we started this season, we had Quartararo, Viñales on two-year contracts, we had Valentino on a one-year contract with an option for the future, and Morbidelli on a two-year contract. Now that's a pretty strong package. You've got three young, very, very talented riders – Franco was second in the championship last year, Fabio's talent is known, and Maverick is one of the fastest guys out there, plus Valentino. So you can't really say that we didn't have a strong rider package."

One expected, one unexpected

The season took a different turn, however. The retirement of Valentino Rossi had been planned for, the Italian having said from the start of the year that he would make a decision based on his results. "Valentino's results have been disappointing this year, for him and for us, and so finally, that is the conclusion," Jarvis acknowledged. "These young guys are so damned fast, and if the blade is not 100% sharp, then it doesn't cut it any more, literally."

The loss of Maverick Viñales was very different. It was a situation which developed quickly, and could not have been planned for at the start of 2021. "The fact that Valentino might retire at the end of the year was a known factor and risk, OK. But then Viñales suddenly decided to stop, left us a little bit exposed, looking at it now," Jarvis said.

"But we're not panicking about it. We are going to move Morbidelli to the factory team, so the factory team is going to be strong next year," Jarvis told us. Though the paperwork was still to be finalized, the decision had already been made.

Looking to the future

That left two seats in the Petronas team to fill. "We're going to work together with the Petronas team to put together the best package that fits our future needs and their needs as well, with their sponsorship and their partners," Jarvis said. "But it's not simple, because most of the good guys are already signed up to contracts."

It was a relatively short-term problem, however, with the rider market expected to open up when the current cycle of two-year contracts ends. "The next window of opportunity will come for 2023/2024, when many of the top riders will come available again. So I'm not really worried about it," Jarvis said.

Yamaha's position is very different to that of KTM, who have a full development path all the way from the Spanish championship. But it was not an approach Yamaha would take, Jarvis explained. "I fully respect KTM's situation, they have a very strong program, they've done a good job. They have the Red Bull Rookies Cup first, they have a Moto3 bike, so they get access to the young talent, they sign up the riders when they are very, very young, and they put them on all-inclusive contracts. They can move them up to Moto3, Moto2, and eventually up into MotoGP. So they have a very full program that we don't have. And also, I would say Suzuki is in the same situation as us, so is Aprilia, so are Ducati. So we're not alone."

Yamaha's talent pool

Not having Moto3 and Moto2 teams of their own did not mean Yamaha does not have access to young talent, however. "It means that we have to go about it in a different way," Jarvis said. "But we have certain systems in place. We work together with the VR46 Academy to look at their talent. And obviously with the Petronas team, having a Moto3 and a Moto2 program, that's part of the future plan."

Jarvis also confirmed that they are very close to signing a deal with Petronas, to continue supplying them with MotoGP machinery beyond 2021 and into the future. "We will sign with [Petronas] once we get all of our paperwork sorted out, we will sign with them for another three-year term," Jarvis said. "And we'll work together with them even more in the future, to try to pick up and spot young talent as it comes through the ranks."

While Jarvis was confident that Yamaha have their own systems in place to develop talent, he expressed admiration for KTM for the program the Austrian factory has put together. "But on the other side, chapeau to KTM for having such a strong package." Jarvis even joked about the abundance of talented riders KTM currently appear to have. "I've offered to take some of their excess talent off them if they find it's too much of a burden, but so far they haven't accepted," he laughed.


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