High bar for John McPhee in Moto3 title bid, Jake Dixon ‘can surprise'

John McPhee is tasked by SIC with winning the 2020 Moto3 title at his eighth attempt, while Jake Dixon is tipped to 'surprise' in Moto2 line-up

John McPhee - Petronas Sprinta Moto3

The Sepang Racing Team has set itself high targets for the 2020 GP racing season with John McPhee and Jake Dixon after exceeding expectations across the classes during its first season as a racing entity.

SIC (Sepang International Circuit) has retained a strong presence in the championship beyond its hosting of the Malaysian MotoGP race, backing young Malaysian racers through the ranks, all the way to MotoGP in Hafizh Syharin’s case.

With support from state oil giant Petronas, SIC formed its own teams in 2019 to compete in all four classes – Petronas SRT in MotoGP, Sprinta Racing in Moto2, Moto3 and MotoE – with several high-profile successes. Fabio Quartararo was a revelation in the MotoGP class with six pole positions and seven podiums, while John McPhee was victorious in France en route to fifth overall.

With an unchanged rider line-up in MotoGP with Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Sprinta has overhauled its Moto2 line-up with Dixon joining ahead of his second season in the series, while McPhee has is charged with going all the way to the title in Moto3.

“Starting 2019 like we did, the pressure will be on now for 2020," said team principal Johan Stigefelt. "This season was the honeymoon, but now we need to live up to our results and our image. We need to keep the team happy and smiling as we do it as well. There will be a bigger challenge, but we’re ready to meet it.

“We’ve set the bar high, but the target will be to raise it even higher. Everyone in the team is competitive and wants to do better - no one is happy until we’re performing at our expectations. 2019 was a tough year in Moto2 and it’s nice to have an experienced rider like Xavi Vierge and someone who is fresh and hungry in Jake Dixon. Jake can surprise and Xavi just needs fine-tuned to be at the top.

“In Moto3, we’ve set the bar high with John and we know what we need to work on to be at the front every weekend. With Pawi coming back to Moto3, it will also be a challenge - but he know the class and the bike and he had success there in the past. I am looking forward to seeing him and John working together throughout the year."

John McPhee the 2020 Moto3 World Champion?

To say this is McPhee biggest and best chance to win a Moto3 World Championship would be an understatement. It would also be somewhat belated given he made his debut in the ‘beginner’ series back in 2010 when it was still the 125GP series.

To put into context, when McPhee made his 125GP debut he was sharing the track with Marc Marquez, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro…

At 25-years old, McPhee is on the upper end of the age scale compared to his Moto3 rivals (he’s also two years older than Dixon) so one can understand his initial misgivings about staying in the series for eighth season in the series.

However, SIC want a title win in the bag and Moto3 is probably its best chance to win one too, so while McPhee might begrudge staying in Moto3, his target it probably the most important in the team’s portfolio next season.

Dixon, meanwhile, has something to prove having been given a second chance on the back of a very disappointing rookie year. Stepping up from the British Superbike Championship was always going to be a tough challenge, but coupled to an uncompetitive customer KTM chassis, Dixon struggled for points.

However, SIC is hoping Dixon ‘does a Quartararo’ and proves himself in the right environment. Given SIC’s financial backing and influence, it also puts him in a very welcome position when it comes to future prospects.