KUALA LUMPUR: With strong support from the Yamaha factory, Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (SRT) have raised the bar for their maiden season in the MotoGP World Championships this year.
Team principal Datuk Razlan Razali said that SRT — Malaysia’s first ever team in MotoGP — have been provided one “spec A” machine for this season, the same as those used by Movistar Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, and one “spec B+” machine.
Italian Franco Morbidelli will ride the “spec A” bike for SRT while rookie teammate Fabio Quartararo (France) will use the “spec B+” machine, the latter bike is said to be stronger than what 2017 Rookie of the Year Johann Zarco had used in recent seasons.
Razlan said, during the launch of the SRT MotoGP team as well as the Petronas Sprinta Racing Moto2 and Moto3 teams in Kuala Lumpur today, he is expecting all three outfits to make an impact this year.
“Although this is only our first year in MotoGP, we have set an ambitious target which is to finish in the top-six (overall),” said Razlan, who is also Sepang International Circuit (SIC) chief executive officer.
“For SRT we have been given the same bike (for Morbidelli) that has been given to Vinales and Rossi.
“Franco may lack experience on the (Yamaha) bike but he has shown strong pace in testing so far and we hope he can continue building on that.
“We have also just been told that Fabio will be given a bike with specifications only just lower than ‘spec A’ which they (Yamaha) call ‘spec B+’.
“Hopefully using this, he will be able to fight for the Rookie of the Year title.”
“With the support we are receiving from Yamaha, as well as the talent within the team, we are confident of achieving this target.”
Razlan said there are also high expectations on the Petronas Moto3 team, which feature Japan’s Ayumu Sasaki and Scotsman John McPhee, while they will be patient with their sole Moto2 rider Khairul Idham Pawi.
The Petronas Moto2 and Moto3 teams are also managed by SIC.
Khairul and McPhee are both new signings though it will be Ayumu’s third season with Petronas.
“The target for the Moto3 team is the highest (of the three teams), which is to finish among the top-five this year.
“For Moto2, our target is to finish in the top-15. We are giving some space for Khairul to adapt to his new team and the switch to Triumph engines in Moto2 this year.”
Razlan admitted that he does have high hopes for Khairul who grabbed headlines in 2016 when he won two races in Moto3 but struggled since moving up to Moto2 with Idemitsu Honda Team Asia in 2017.
“This is a historic day for Malaysian two-wheel motorsport as we officially launched SRT here. It’s a dream for Malaysian fans who have long waited for a Malaysian-owned MotoGP team.
“We are hoping to have a Malaysian rider in SRT within two years. Khairul is someone we are hoping will be able to take one of the two seats in the future but he will have to prove himself first.”
MotoGP will commence testing with two sessions at Sepang on Feb 1-3 and Feb 6-8. This will be followed by testing in Qatar on Feb 23-25. The new season will begin with the Qatar Motorcycle Grand Prix on March 8-10.