Sepang Yamaha ready for 'historic' MotoGP debut

'This is a historic moment for Malaysian Motorsports and especially for the Sepang International Circuit' - Razlan Razali.
Sepang Yamaha ready for 'historic' MotoGP debut

The new Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team will make its debut during this week's Valencia test, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Malaysia's first MotoGP team is taking over the satellite Yamaha supply from Tech3, signing 2018 rookie of the year Franco Morbidelli alongside 2019 newcomer Fabio Quartararo.

“This is a historic moment for Malaysian Motorsports and especially for the Sepang International Circuit," said team principal Razlan Razali, who helped place Hafizh Syahrin at Tech3 this season, as Malaysia's first MotoGP rider.

"We have come a long way to establish our own team in MotoGP, and we are very excited to see this project come to fruition, starting with some positive tests at Valencia and Jerez.

"The moment the first wheel turns on the tarmac will be a historic one for the Sepang International Circuit, for the Malaysian fans and for fans across South Asia. To be the only Asian-owned team on the grid gives us great pride.”

Morbidelli took a best race finish of eighth during his debut premier-class season, on a Marc VDS Honda. The Italian, a former Moto2 champion, will have an 'A spec' M1, meaning he will start the year with machinery on a par with factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales.

“I am very excited!" said Morbidelli. "It is fantastic to be here today to see how they set up the bikes and how the team works. It’s an incredible feeling and I just can’t wait to try out the bike tomorrow.

"What I’ve done so far is have my measurements taken for the Yamaha, although it’s not yet possible to imagine how the bike will feel to ride; to really know that we’ll have to wait for the first laps tomorrow.

"The objective for this test is to learn as much as possible with the YZR-M1 and to understand the potential of the bike, and to adapt myself to the team while trying to be as fast as possible on track.”

Quartararo, who took his first victory in Moto2 this season, is equally excited.

“I am thrilled to begin a new chapter in MotoGP. Tomorrow we will finally be able to get on the bike and I can’t wait to be on the Yamaha YZR-M1 for the first time to see how it is and, above all, enjoy the experience and learn," said the young Frenchman.

"Let’s just hope the conditions are good for us and that it doesn’t rain, as everything will be new for me: the power, the brakes, the electronics and the tyres. To be able to get the most out of the package it would help for it to be dry.

"We have already had some meetings with the team; so far I can say that they seem like great people and I’m really looking forward to working with them all.”

Wilco Zeelenberg is moving from the official Yamaha squad to become team manager of at Sepang.

“I am really excited about this new project, we have all worked very hard to turn this dream into a reality," said the Dutchman, who has worked closely with Jorge Lorenzo and Maverick Vinales in MotoGP.

"On the technical side, I think we have the two best bikes a satellite team could have, and that makes it so much more easy for me to take the decision to join this new adventure. We have a group with a lot of experience and we are very motivated to do a good job in 2019.”

Ramon Forcada will also be switching from the factory Yamaha team, where he was crew chief for Lorenzo and Vinales, to work with Morbidelli.

Meanwhile Johan Stigefelt, who has been running the Sepang Moto2 and Moto3 entries, becomes Team Director.

“It is an incredible feeling to start this new project, this dream we have had for a few years now, and to do it alongside Petronas and Yamaha is something special," Stigefelt said.

"Over the last six months we have been working non-stop and it has been very tough but finally we have a great team and great people on board.

"The relationship with Yamaha is very good and the riders are incredible - Franco has a year of experience now in MotoGP after finishing as the Rookie of the Year, whilst Fabio has an exciting debut season ahead.

"I am really looking forward to getting started; we all have to learn step by step to achieve our objectives and that’s exactly what we will be doing at the Valencia and Jerez tests. Thank you to everybody that has made this possible.

"Let’s get started!”