Sepang boss affirms likelihood of split from SRT MotoGP team

Franco Morbidelli. Picture: MotoGP.com

The boss of the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) has all but confirmed its impending split from the SRT MotoGP team, and that the Moto2 and Moto3 programmes will be axed.

SIC announced during last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix that Petronas’ title sponsorship of all three of those squads will end at the conclusion of the current season, but skirted around speculation regarding the full sporting implications.

The statement did, however, refer to SRT’s (Sepang Racing Team) “continuation in MotoGP from 2022 onwards under a new independent entity,” hinting at a decoupling of the Malaysian circuit from the race team.

It appears that will indeed be the case, with signs pointing to some sort of management takeover of SRT, based on comments from SIC CEO Azhan Shafriman Hanif.

Nevertheless, full details will not be announced until the next round of the MotoGP season, the British Grand Prix.

“Yes, that’s true, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams will be disbanded,” Hanif told Indonesia’s TMCblog.com.

“We just have to wait for Datuk Razlan [Razali, SRT team principal] to announce it. I think he will do it in the coming weeks ahead of Silverstone, along with an explanation of the team’s future.

“More or less, we are already agreed with Razlan Razali that SRT will be independent from SIC next year.”

Regardless of what identity it might go by next year, SRT is set for a major shake-up even beyond the jettisoning of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams.

The knock-on effect is reportedly that Darryn Binder will be promoted straight from Moto3 to MotoGP to ride one of its Yamahas, although who will fill the second seat is less clear.

The need to fill two seats is not yet confirmed but incumbent Franco Morbidelli is highly likely to go to Monster Energy Yamaha to replace Maverick Viñales.

Morbidelli, who finished runner-up last year on an older ‘A-Spec’ M1, has already been given his blessing to do so by Razali but also likely has a clause in his SRT contract regarding factory team offers anyway.

Furthermore, it has been speculated that both SRT riders will get ‘B-spec’ Yamahas in 2022, whereas the retiring Valentino Rossi still enjoys full factory-spec gear this year.

A more immediate concern for the team is who will ride its bikes at Silverstone in just under a fortnight from now.

Viñales is currently suspended by Yamaha with no word on when or even if he will return, leading to the possibility that test rider Cal Crutchlow will be called to race for the factory team.

That creates an issue for SRT given Crutchlow is currently filling in for Morbidelli, who looks like missing the British and Aragon Grands Prix as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.

Jake Dixon, currently 19th in the Moto2 championship for SRT (as ‘Petronas Sprinta Racing’), has been linked to that ride if his fellow Briton races for Monster Energy Yamaha at Silverstone.

Dixon and Spaniard Xavi Vierge form the intermediate class squad, while South African Binder, brother of last weekend’s MotoGP race winner Brad, shares the Moto3 garage with Scot John McPhee.

Meanwhile, Aprilia Racing has now advised that it has signed Viñales for 2022, with an option on his services beyond then.

His exit from Yamaha paves the way for the factory team to be filled up by SRT alumni given Morbidelli would join championship leader Fabio Quartararo in blue.

In other Sepang-related news, Hanif also told TMCblog.com that a final decision on the Malaysian Grand Prix will be made with Dorna Sports “around the end of this month”, amid an ongoing wave of COVID-19 in the nation.

That round is the last remaining in the Asia-Pacific on the calendar, and currently occupies Phillip Island’s old date of October 22-24.

The British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone on August 27-29.

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