MCN has discovered a secret hoard of 60 £25,000 Foggy-Petronas FP1 road bikes in a bunker in Essex.
Carl Fogarty – race team manager and figurehead of the ill-fated FP1 project – said when told the news: “You’re joking – that’s amazing!” It had been thought – and stated by the team – that the bikes were shipped to Malaysia five years ago and disposed of. But in fact virtually all the bikes initially produced to homologated the FP1 for WSB racing are still on UK soil.
The collection – worth around £2m – is held in a state of suspended animation awaiting, with the bikes’ owner – Malaysian oil giant Petronas – keen to draw a veil over the whole episode. The firm burned £30m on a WSB program that was intended to kick-start a Ducati-sized bike manufacturing business in Malaysia, but in fact petered out with a 21st place championship finish in 2006.
The bikes were manufactured for Petronas by engineering firm MSX International in Basildon in Essex in record time in 2002, around engines designed by Austrian firm Suter Racing. The idea was that the production process would then be replicated in Malaysia and form the start of a range of higher and lower-spec bikes running to ten thousand and more. 75 road bikes were built in Essex, followed by another 75 in Malaysia six months later, where this famous homologation shot was taken (left).
Though the business that produced this first batch has since changed hands the bikes are still there, now in possession of engineering firm Arrk R&D, which also retains key MSXI staff who worked on the FP1. Tony White is one of them: “They were perfect” is all he will say about the bikes, the existence of which Petronas gagging orders prevent him from acknowledging.
As chief executive of Foggy Petronas Racing, Murray Treece was the go-between for Petronas and the UK engineers who developed the road bike. He says: “Our staff developed the race bike and then were involved in transferring the design and supplier information over to the road bike team. Exactly what happened after that to the road bikes is unknown (by me at least).”
It was a transition in which the FP1 lost virtually none of its clean racing looks, but a fair chunk of its power – down to 127bhp from 185bhp. Even so, at 181kg it should still have been a competitive road bike – though it was never released for road test. Eight years later only the non-radial brakes date the stark, stylish lines of the turquoise triples.
Foggy said at the time: “There is no doubt that this will be the most beautiful bike on the roads. It combines cutting edge technology with real elegance and has set new standards at the top end of the road bike market”. Treece echoes: “It was a beautiful looking and sounding machine. I wish I owned one”.
Treece believes Petronas underestimated the challenge in bringing a bike to market in such a short time with no infrastructure.
Priceless or worthless?
What does eight years do to the value of a now-outdated but ultra-exclusive superbike that failed to launch? “It’s tricky” says motorcycle valuation expert for auction house Bonhams Ben Whitworth. “The Petronas might be a bit long in the tooth compared to modern top-flight superbikes costing around £15,000, but the kudos of owning such a limited edition is certainly comparable to Ducati’s Desmosedici at £40-45,000. Very broadly speaking I reckon an example would be between £15,000-25,000. But until one is actually sold at auction and sets a precedent that remains very much a guestimate. It would be fascinating to see.”
Arrk’s Tony White doesn’t agree: “It was a great project to work on that culminated in the build of 150 great bikes – we had everything done down to the owner and dealer manuals.”
In fact the FP1 did eventually go on sale in 2005 – but only in one dealership, in Malaysia, called Naza Bikers Dream - where a pair were still for sale in 2009 for £31,433 each. How long this treasure trove of a tomb will remain unopened lies at Petronas’ discretion. And it’s not a volume in their history they appear keen to exhume.