The Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team has announced the first part of its new identity for 2022 following the management buyout of the squad from current owners the Sepang International Circuit, with an announcement today confirming that the squad will be known as RNF MotoGP Racing – and will remain as a MotoGP team until at least 2026.
The team has changed hands following the unexpected withdrawal of title sponsor Petronas for next year, with current team principal (and former Sepang CEO) Razlan Razali taking over the ownership as well as the management of the squad.
“It has been a whirlwind journey for us,” said the Malaysian in a statement released not by the team but by MotoGP at the San Marino Grand Prix.
“In recent months, we have put all our efforts to reset, rebrand and relaunch as a fresh and stronger MotoGP team. I would like to thank [MotoGP CEO] Carmelo [Ezpeleta] for his continued trust and confidence in me to begin this second chapter with a newly rebuilt team competing in MotoGP’s premier class for the next five years.
“For the season ahead, under the new entity of RNF MotoGP Racing, the rebranded team will continue our blueprint that have proven success before. Expectations will be high and we will push hard to meet these aspirations. Equipped with the experience we gained and having achieved multiple highlights in the past, we look forward to the 2022 season as an even stronger team entry.”
However, while the initial paddock rumours first reported by The Race indicated that Razali would team up with current team director Johan Stigefelt to effectively execute a takeover of the team from SIC, it’s notable that there is no mention of the Swedish former grand prix racer in the team’s announcement.
That fits with more recent speculation that there has been a split between the pair, and that Razali would spearhead the project alone going forward. Speaking exclusively to The Race following today’s announcement, Razali didn’t confirm that Stigefelt wouldn’t be a part of the team’s future – but says that things still need to be worked out thanks to the last-minute way in which the new squad has been formed.
“After the announcement by Petronas and Sepang International Circuit,” he explained, “what is important is to save the MotoGP entry. I had a discussion with Carmelo and received his full support. It took time, and basically, we agreed for me to move forward and take over the entry for the next five years.
“When I started this team in the first place, it was me, Carmelo and Carlos [Ezpeleta, Dorna MD] who planned this – and this is the second chapter.
“We are looking at just the MotoGP team, and that structure will remain. Right now we’re confirming the main foundation; the team, the entry, and next our ongoing discussion with Yamaha. We’re a whole new team so we have to go through the process again.
“Then we have to look at sponsors. Once the main fundamentals are confirmed, then I’ll look at the other options I have with partners and management.”
Sponsorship, in particular, has been the key issue for the new team following the sudden departure of Petronas, with Italian energy firm WithU linked to the team. Believed already to be a key player in the signing of Andrea Dovizioso for the team, that’s something that Razali hinted at even while he insisted that a title partner is still to be finalised.
“What I have learned in the past three years,” he admitted, “and it’s been a very steep learning curve, is that when you venture into MotoGP, the scope, the responsibility and the money involved is all a lot more – so you have to treat it like a business.
“Sometimes you have to move to where the money is. But at the same time, the money that wants you to move is smart, and wants to make sure that the riders you sign can perform. We are creating a balance of riders for next year who can perform along with a rider who we want to develop.”
That potentially ends the prospect of seeing its current Moto3 rider Darryn Binder jump directly from the lightweight class to MotoGP for 2022 – a circumstance that was believed to only be the case thanks to a carefully-worded contract he had in place with Stigefelt’s side of the operation.
That should open the door to a whole host of riders to potentially partner up with new signing Andrea Dovizioso, who made his debut for the team today at the San Marino Grand Prix under Petronas colours – but who is contracted directly to Yamaha as a satellite for 2021 and 2022 rather than to either SRT or RNF Racing.
“It’s something between us and Yamaha,” said Razali when asked by The Race about the second seat. “We’re collectively making that decision and we’ll announce it in due time.”