China MotoGP John Surtees supported 125GP team unveiled

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A new 125GP team spearheaded by British motorsport icon John Surtees has been officially unveiled on the first day of the China MotoGP in Shanghai today (Friday).

The Maxtra team, which will have seven-times world champion and MBE Surtees as Team Patron, confirmed plans to begin racing with a two-rider effort from the start of the 2009 world championship.

Surtees, who remains the only man in history to win both MotoGP and Formula One world championships, will spearhead the project that has been three years in the making.

Team boss will be former Suzuki factory stalwart Garry Taylor, who will oversee the project that has been formed in conjunction with China’s largest bike manufacturer Haojue, which plans to mass produce nearly three million bikes in 2008.

The Maxtra project, which was exclusively revealed by MCN earlier this week, has used former Aprilia designer Jan Witteveen to build the motor, while British-based tuning experts Harris Performance has designed and manufactured the chassis.

Track testing is expected to commence in the UK within the next month, but rider selection is still under discussion, though Taylor insists there is no stipulation to have a Chinese rider.

Asked why at 74 Surtees had decided to become a pivotal figure in the new project, he said: “Well I think that once a racer, always a racer.

“And you’re first love is always rather special, particularly related to myself and my motorcycling career. I think that what is very important is to say that this is a major cooperation where Hajoue are obviously looking to go along and not only project themselves to the world at large in potential new markets, but also technology.

“It is to come along and gradually develop and bring technology back here into China so that it itself can benefit to meet the many demands which are now facing all manufacturers with technology and with the development of technicians to create that technology.

And this is part of the reason and the program for which they have embarked.

Would he plan on dusting off his leathers to ride the bike himself? “My biggest problem, is I made myself a promise some years ago, I said if I can’t get into my old leathers, I’ll stop riding.

“But I managed to the do the lap of honour in the (Isle of Man) TT and I have got myself involved in going to Spa for the Arai helmet celebration. So may be. Certainly I’ll have a little poodle on it somewhere.”

Taylor told a packed press conference his reasons for returning to the paddock after he stepped down as team boss of Suzuki’s factory effort in 2004 after a career spanning nearly three decades.

“A new challenge is always something I find hard to resist,” said Taylor.

“The opportunity to put together a project from ground zero was extremely exciting. And the challenges of working with this amount of talent is something that doesn’t come along very often.

“But for me the most exciting prospect is working with Maxtra is that they have a very clear decision making process and are focused on what they want to do. And I think that’s extremely important towards making this the success that it will be.”

A three-year contract is already signed, with the clear target to fight for the world title in the third season, according to Taylor.

For the full story on the Maxtra team see Wednesday’s MCN out on May 7, 2008.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt