It raced in WSB for three years yet the road version is still missing in action
From 2003 to 2006 four-times World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty headed up the Foggy Petronas project that not only raced in WSB but also should have led to production bikes too. After five years and £30 million of investment, the team failed to score a single WSB win and the much-hyped road bikes failed to go on sale. So what went wrong – and what became of the Foggy Petronas FP1 production bike?
What was the original plan?
It was for Sauber Petronas – already well-established in Formula 1 car racing – to build bikes to enter MotoGP, which had gone four-stroke in 2002. With Petronas’ Malaysian money and Swiss engineering, the project sounded promising but, for reasons never disclosed, there was a last minute change of plan and an announcement was made that the project would instead focus on the World Superbike Championship with Foggy as team boss and no involvement from Sauber. There would also have to be 150 high-spec homologation FP1 street bikes made available to the general public to satisfy WSB rules (expected to cost £25,000). At the team launch, Foggy announced there would be 10,000 lower-spec bikes eventually made available at a more affordable price.
How did the team do in WSB?
Not too well, sadly. In five years of trying with riders including Troy Corser, Chris Walker, James Haydon, Garry McCoy, Craig Jones, and Steve Martin, the team only managed three podiums. Walker took the first one with a third place finish at Valencia in 2004 while Corser took two pole positions and a second place finish.
So who actually built the bikes?
Sauber had no interest in WSB so pulled out of the project as soon it was switched from MotoGP to WSB. Petronas then approached Suter Racing Technology (Swiss-based engineering company with a long history in Grands Prix) to head-up engine development on the race bikes with UK engineering firm, MSX International, tasked with building the road bikes. In 2004, Foggy parted ways with Suter and handed engine-development over to British firm Ricardo but racing results did not improve and the project was abandoned after the 2006 season when the highest placed Petronas bike (with Steve Martin onboard) could only finish the championship in 21st place.
Why was the FP1 so uncompetitive?
Because it was designed as an 899cc triple when the maximum capacity for triples in WSB was 900cc. By the time the bike appeared in 2003, the rules allowed triples to be 1000cc so the FP1 always had a huge power disadvantage. It didn't help matters that so many different companies had been involved in building the bikes at different times. Unreliability was a constant throughout the project.
Was the road bike ever released?
The production FP1 underwent an endless series of delays until it was finally announced in 2005 that the bikes were available to buy. The problem was, there was no UK dealer network so the only appointed dealer was NAZA Bikers Dream in Malaysia! Then, in 2010, MCN discovered 60 Petronas FP1 bikes being held in a bunker in Essex. Seventy five road bikes were built by MXS International in Basildon while apparently a further 75 were built in Malaysia. The UK bikes were in possession of Arrk R&D at that point but in 2012, 129 bikes were bought by new Malaysian company, Momoto, and were re-branded as Momoto MM1's, ready to be sold. But the project hit a snag when it was discovered that taxes and duties on the bikes had not been paid and the Malaysian government seized the lot. Momoto then began an $83 million law suit against Petronas. The saga continues and the bikes remain under lock and key.
Did anyone ever test the road bike?
In 2012, MCN finally got to ride the production FP1 on the road in Switzerland, thanks to owner Livio Kagi. MCN's Michael Guy rode the bike and raved about its strong, linear power delivery. The bike Guy rode was one of only two FP1s in Europe at that time but was sadly lost in a fire in Kagi's garage in 2013. MCN’s Tim Thompson rode the other one and, while he loved the way it stopped and turned like handbuilt 600, also said it was “the authentic replica of a flawed race bike. It cooks its rider, leaves a puddle of oil wherever it stops and needs rollers to start in the morning...”
Will we ever be able to buy one?
If Momoto and Petronas can sort out their legal wrangles, there's still a chance that the bikes will come up for sale but don't hold your breath. Bonhams expert Ben Whitworth says the bikes' exclusivity means they will still command high prices. "I reckon an example would be between £15,000-£25,000" he says. "But until one is sold and sets a precedent that remains very much a guestimate."
Words: Stuart Barker Photos: Gold and Goose
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