The fairytale Moto GP team?
MotoGP’s youngest team have enjoyed some incredible success in their first 2 years; from netting multiple front-row starts in qualifying, the youngest pole-sitter in MotoGP history, as well, twice achieving best independent team status. Last year the team took 6 race wins between both their riders.
This year, the fairy-tale is set to become even more magical, as the team welcome living
legend Valentino Rossi to ride alongside Franco Morbidelli. Even if you know nothing about motorcycle racing, you will undoubtedly know Rossi’s name. The now 42-year-old has 9 World Titles to his name, hailed by most as the GOAT of the sport, and his immense yellow army of fans have supported him for the past 23 years. For many, Rossi is a god-like figure, his status as the number one rider in the factory Yamaha team has been the case for much of his career. Most of the current grid grew up watching him race and idolise him accordingly. For the Petronas team to net, such a captivating, successful rider is truly an impressive score.
As impressive as he is, just how competitive is Rossi going to be in 2021? He hasn’t been close to winning a World Title since 2009, and in 2020 he suffered the worst season of his entire career. With 3 consecutive DNF’s of his own doing, and then being ruled out of a further 2 Grand Prix’s due to contracting Coronavirus. Rossi has been promised a factory spec machine, however, we know last year that Valentino was not allowed to bring his people with him to the new team. Luckily for Petronas, the other side of the garage is more than impressive enough to save any blushes Rossi’s potential poor form could incur.
I’m very proud to be part of PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team. It’s a new challenge for me. This is a very young team, but in the last two years they have already been really competitive. I’m happy to see my new bike for this year and I really like the colours of the livery, leathers, helmet, etc. It looks awesome. My targets for 2021 is to be competitive, fight to win races, fight to achieve podiums and also fight for a good position in the World Championship standings at the end of the season. We are all very focused on our targets to make the best we can. I think that with Franco we are a very interesting couple of riders as we know each other really well. All the whole team has a lot of motivation and I will give my maximum to achieve together the best possible result at the end of the calendar. We are ready to start.Valentino Rossi – Petronas Sepang Racing Team
Franco Morbidelli was many people’s stand out rider last season, and if you look at his form
book, you’ll see exactly why. Morbidelli took 3 race wins last season, as well as a further 2
podiums and 2 pole positions. He was easily the most consistent Yamaha rider of the four,
and managed to take second overall in the Championship, just 3 points behind Joan Mir. He
has improved every aspect of his riding performance since 2019 when he was out-qualified
and outshone by his Rookie teammate, Fabio Quartararo. Even more impressive is that
all of his achievements have come about whilst being placed on A-spec (inferior) machinery.
Morbidelli will again be racing on an A-spec M1, due to the pandemic induced engine freeze,
but considering the rapid drop-off, the factory spec M1’s suffered towards the end of the
season, that hardly seems to be a bad thing. In my opinion, Morbidelli has to be one of the
front runner’s for the title this year, and I think having Rossi alongside him will be an
incredible boost for the young Italian’s chances.
Morbidelli and Rossi know each other very well, with Morbidelli being a member of Rossi’s
prestigious VR46 Academy, they have often been partnered up during competitions at the Ranch (Rossi’s personal training facility.) Whether Rossi is able to be competitive is yet to be seen, but his wealth of experience cannot be ignored, and with the level of respect the two have towards each other, I think we can expect to see teammate camaraderie play a big part in this year’s title battle.
From my point of view, I think Petronas are going to have a stellar year. Rossi’s signing will
undoubtedly bring a lot more attention from the Yamaha factory, due to the man’s close links with the Japanese manufacturer, which can only help the team’s competitiveness. I know that many (including myself) doubt Rossi’s ability level, even to the point where we are wondering if this could be the last year Rossi competes in MotoGP. I think the old GOAT could still surprise us.
This will be my third year with the team and there are many things I like about PETRONAS Yamaha SRT. The 2021 YZR-M1 livery is similar to the last two years, but still changed; It’s the same but different so I like it. What is different from last years is my teammate; I expect and hope it will be a great season for Vale [Valentino Rossi] and me. We have had a strong relationship for many years and we will learn a lot from each other. My personal target for 2021 is to get better; improve myself as a person, rider and athlete. I know it’s hard and difficult because last year we were quite fast and we made great races and achieved great results. Nevertheless, we will have to try to improve compared with 2020, so that’s my aim, try to be better year after year.Franco Morbidelli – Petronas Sepang Racing Team
Petronas is a young, ambitious, lively, friendly team – exactly the kind of environment you would expect Rossi to thrive in. As well as this, they have already shown enough backbone to make it clear Rossi will not get his own way just because he’s Rossi. The team have insisted on retaining most of their own staff, and only allowed Rossi to bring 3 of his own in with him, namely his crew chief and two engineers.
With a star talent in the form of Morbidelli and a potential resurgence of form for Rossi on
the cards, I would back Petronas to produce an impressive result again this year, and who
knows; maybe Rossi is capable of getting that 10th title? This is, after all, a fairy-tale.
Just one more team launch is left before MotoGP get the season underway, the reigning world champions, Suzuki, are set to launch on March 6th. Aprilia’s launch was postponed, however, we have yet to find out when this will be continued.
Not just Moto GP, Moto2 and Moto3 look promising
Last year, former BSB rider Jake Dixon impressed everybody. The 25-year-old had a career-best 4th position in Aragon, but that result really didn’t do his season justice. A great battle with Sam Lowes at Le Mans, looked like Dixon was certain of a victory until a final corner lowside with four laps to go stopped what looked like a classy victory. Just as Jake was finding his stride a nasty accident at Valencia, during FP2 saw a nasty fractured wrist, a season-ender. With operations during December, Jake looks like he’s on the mend, and if he can continue where he left off in 2020 it should be a firecracker season for him. Should he have a great season could a Moto GP seat come calling?
It’s great to be involved with PETRONAS Sprinta Racing because obviously they are present in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, and they’re the only team that’s present in all three classes. Also, it means so much for me to be involved with a massive global name such as PETRONAS. This season I want to be more consistent from early on, which is the biggest factor for me. If I can hit my form early, I’ll automatically be a lot better. I’ll take in the first rounds to see where I’m at, and then slowly build back into it and definitely score race wins and podiums as they were on the cards towards the end of 2020.Jake Dixon – Petronas Sepang Racing Team
Can John McPhee win Moto3?
2020 started off so promising for John, it looked like it really could have been his year, but unfortunately, 5 retirements, dropped valuable points to his rivals. The promising thing for us fans though was John’s racecraft, with some brilliant racing, fights from the back give us hope that 2021 could be his year! Partnered this season with high flying, no holds barred Darryn Binder, this team will definitely be one to watch!
To be part of PETRONAS Sprinta Racing for a third consecutive year is just fantastic, and it really is like a dream come true for me. They’re such a professional group of people on and off the track. They’ve helped me achieve some great results with two wins and seven podiums. I’m so excited to see the team after what felt like such a long winter break. I think after strong performances last year in many races, I know I can go better. We’ve analysed lots of data from 2020, and I’m just really excited to see what’s possible, and I’m really looking forward to a great year.John McPhee – Petronas Sepang Racing Team
This article was written by the fantastic Rebekah Lee, our resident Motorsport nut and MA Creative writing graduate. She’s been fascinated by all things motorsports since childhood – follow her on Twitter at @bekahjlee
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