Scottish rider John McPhee will have the chance of a lifetime to lift the Moto3 world crown in 2019 after announcing today at his home race that he has signed for the Petronas Sprinta Honda team for next season. Joining Ayumu Sasaki at the Sepang Circuit based squad, the deal represents a move into one of the best backed squads on the lightweight class grid.
With a strong improvement in results with the CIP Moto KTM squad coming since finally being able to complete some testing and with McPhee returning to podium form since, he says that he was actually a little surprised by the number of strong offers he received – but that the Malaysian team’s was a stand out.
“They actually approached me in Assen and made an offer – and normally you have to try and negotiate a bit, but I was almost ready to walk in and sign after that initial approach. I didn’t want to go and sign without letting my team know and without letting KTM know though, and I did push KTM because things are starting to work well with them now.
“Since Sachsenring, I’ve had at least four teams offer me paying rides, which is a really nice feeling after a hard start to the year. I went from thinking that I was jobless to having a load of offers! But there was nothing that was as good an offer as the Petronas deal. Looking at all the offers that I had and only looking at the bike and the team that one was already the strongest.”
With McPhee struggling in recent seasons to put together a strong pre-season campaign – and consequentially failing to get the momentum he needs to start off the season – he’s positive that the strengths of the Petronas team means that he can start the year as a title contender.
“For the last three or four years, I’ve just not had the pre-season testing that I needed. We’ve been turning up in Qatar still trying to work out a base setting for the bike and then you’re on the back foot for the first few races of the year. I did get plenty of testing when I was on the British Talent Team bike and we had a great start to the season afterwards, so hopefully we can replicate that. The plan is already for three or four days in Malaysia, which means we can come to Europe already with that base.
“I’ve not worked with any of the team but I’ve known them all for a while, and they seem like a real professional bunch of guys and girls. I’m not sure yet but I think it’ll be Mark as my crew chief, which will be great. We’ve got a similar mentality, and hopefully everything will work really well. There’s a lot of Brits in the team, but the Malaysians in there seem really good too. Right to the point and they know what they want, and they seemed really willing to get something done as soon as possible.”
And with the news that he’ll be joined by Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo on the team’s new satellite Yamaha MotoGP bikes, he also admits that there’s now a path to the top for him that wasn’t there previously.
“The route to MotoGP is one of the key points for me when it came to signing for them. There is a stepping stone there, and my long-term plan is certainly not to be staying in Moto3. Hopefully I can finish what will should be my last year there with a strong result and then move up through Moto2 to MotoGP with them. It’s the first time I’ve had a clear path and it helped massively to make the decision for me.”