MotoGP: Petronas Sepang Racing Team to cease operations at the end of 2021

2021 will be the Sepang Racing Team's last in Grand Prix racing
2021 will be the Sepang Racing Team's last in Grand Prix racing
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It has been confirmed that the Petronas Sepang Racing Team will end its involvement in all racing and non-racing activities at the end of the 2021 season.

Rumours have been circulating regarding the team's future following the departure of title sponsor Petronas at the end of this year. The knock-on effect of that decision would have initially been withdrawal from Moto3 and Moto2 for financial reasons, however it's now confirmed that the entire team will fold.

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However, 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 Misano on September 16.

The Sepang Racing Team (SRT) entered the premier class in 2019 with Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli - however the team’s origins can be traced back to 2015 with M7 DRIVE SIC Racing Team in Moto3, which secured two podiums in its first season. Quartararo secured six poles and seven podiums in his maiden campaign. The following year he and Morbidelli won three races each, with the latter ending the year second overall.

2021 has not been as successful. Quartararo moved on to the factory Yamaha team, whilst Morbidelli was forced to race his 2019 A-Spec Yamaha M1. The two-year-old machine is by far the slowest on the MotoGP grid, and the Italian struggled has a result. Morbidelli has also missed several races after undergoing knee surgery.

Valentino Rossi also joined the team but is enduring his worse premier class campaign of his illustrious career. The nine-time world champion is 19th in the standings with only 28 points from 11 races. Rossi has announced that he will retire at the end of 2021.

"We have experienced a remarkable voyage over the past years," Razali said. "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."

Alongside the sponsorship deal with Petronas, SRT became part of the operation of the Sepang International Circuit - home of the Malaysian Grand Prix and host of Formula One races between 1999 and 2017.

"We thank Sepang International Circuit for their vision and support of upcoming Malaysian talent over a long period," Razali added. "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."

SRT became Independent Teams’ Champions in 2019 and 2020, with Quartararo named 2019 Rookie of the Year after clinching the Top Independent Rider crown. Morbidelli took this accolade in 2020, as the team finished second in the Teams' Championship.

In Moto3, as things stand, John McPhee has two victories in Petronas Sprinta Racing colours: Le Mans 2019 and Misano 2020. The Scot also has three pole positions with the team. Jake Dixon secured a best Moto2 result for the team at Aragon in 2020, finishing fourth. He was on course for victory in the wet at Le Mans before he fell with a few laps remaining.

"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," Stigefelt said. "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.

"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."

For the British Grand Prix this weekend, Dixon will make his MotoGP debut with SRT, whilst Cal Crutchlow, who raced for the team in Austria, takes Maverick Vinales' spot in the factory Yamaha team.

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Josh Close

By Josh Close

Sports Reporter and fan of all things motorsport.