Following the announcement of PETRONAS stepping in as Title Partner, Sepang International Circuit [SIC] also unveiled its full rider line-up for the 2019 MotoGP season.
In the premier class, the team will be represented by two young motivated riders, Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo. Both riders will contest on board Yamaha YZR-M1s following an agreement between Sepang International Circuit and Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
After winning the Superstock 600 Championship in 2013, Morbidelli made his official debut in the World Championship in 2014. Just three years later the Italian rider became the 2017 Moto2 World Champion, after a dominant season that saw him achieve an outstanding twelve podiums. Taking the step up to MotoGP this year, Morbidelli is already a regular top-15 contender in his rookie year.
19-year old Quartararo makes the step up to the premier class following an impressive background to date. After winning the FIM CEV Moto3 Championship in both 2013 and 2014, the Frenchman went on to make his debut in the World Championship at just 15-years old. By only his second race, the youngster had already taken his first podium with a second-place finish in Austin, which he followed up with another second-place finish in Assen. Quartararo has continued to show impressive pace after his move up to the intermediate class in 2017 and with two podiums already under his belt this season, he will be an exciting young rookie to watch out for in MotoGP.
Along with the addition of the newly formed MotoGP Team, PETRONAS and Sepang International Circuit are delighted to announce the signing of Khairul Idham Pawi in Moto2 and John McPhee in Moto3.
Khairul Idham Pawi, a household name in the Malaysian and Asian racing scene, moved up to the World Championship in 2016, where he made his Moto3 debut. In only his second race of the year, the Malaysian claimed victory in Argentina, taking the win in spectacular style. He went on to take his second win of the season at the German Grand Prix. Pawi’s achievements saw him break the record for the youngest non-European rider to win a motorcycle Grand Prix race.
Having made the step up to Moto2 in 2017, Pawi took points on two occasions during his rookie year, with an 8th and 14th place finish. For 2018 the 19-year-old has continued to be a point scoring contender within the intermediate class.
Born and raised in Scotland in the United Kingdom, John McPhee is a 24-year-old rider with six years’ experience in the Moto3 class. As a former 125cc World Championship competitor, McPhee officially made his Moto3 debut in 2013, following eight wild card races in 2012 with a best finish of 15th in Brno, and has been a full-time rider in this class ever since. McPhee accomplished his first podium in 2015, claiming an impressive second place at Indianapolis. The Scottish rider has since added another five podiums – including a win in Brno in 2016 – and four pole positions to his achievements.
Joining McPhee will be current Moto3 team rider Ayumu Sasaki. 2019 will mark the 17-year-old ‘s third consecutive Moto3 campaign after re-signing with the team.
Dato Razlan Razali – CEO of Sepang International Circuit / Racing Team Principal Representative
“It’s unbelievable for us to participate in the premier class of 2019, with two most exciting and promising young riders. It took us only four short years to achieve this and I must thank Mr. Carmelo Ezpeleta and Carlos Ezpeleta for their faith and confidence in us. I would also like to thank Kouichi Tsuji and Lin Jarvis of Yamaha Motor, as being a new team, we need all the technical support and expertise from Yamaha to ensure that our team and riders do the best job they can, in order to ensure stability in our first year in the championship.
Last but not least, I would like to thank PETRONAS for their invaluable support as the Title Partner for the Racing Team across all three categories. Both PETRONAS and SIC share the same vision and objectives in developing Malaysian talents and unearthing champions.
The MotoGP team essentially completes our progression from CEV, Moto3, Moto2 and now to MotoGP. These steps are fantastic for Malaysian Motorsport, as we are the only Malaysian team that can take a rider to their dream of competing in MotoGP.
I am equally excited to sign John in Moto3 as I’ve always admired him; he is a rider with a lot of potential and very hard working; we will support and provide him with whatever he needs in 2019 for him to be competitive and fight for the championship.
Pawi is our national success and treasure. It is our priority to develop him into a consistently competitive rider in the next two years, with the aim of Pawi being our first Malaysian rider to ride in our MotoGP team.”
Johan Stigefelt – Racing Team Director
We’ve come a long way since we started this team in 2015; every year we have grown, but in particular since PETRONAS came on board it has always been a target to go even further.
This year we started our Moto2 campaign and for 2019 we take the step up into the premier MotoGP class. This is a big dream for myself and for everyone involved because we hadn’t expected it to happen so quickly.
I’m very happy to have two great riders joining us in MotoGP. With Franco and Fabio, we have a former World Champion and a young hungry rider who has already won races and proven himself in Moto2. I think Franco and Fabio will be a strong line-up in our satellite outfit. Of course as a new team we have to be cautious with our target in the beginning, to see where we are first, but I think with the experience from the team on board, combined with the talent and motivation of our riders, we will be competitive from the start. Together with our collaboration with Yamaha we have a very strong package.
For Moto2, I’m super excited to have signed Pawi; he’s the young future racing star in Malaysia. He will enter his third year in Moto2 with us. Already you can see him becoming stronger and stronger, race by race, so it will be very interesting with him next year. He will have an experienced crew around him and we will work hard to improve his results; then you never know in the future where he can go.
Moto3 will also be very exciting because we have signed with John McPhee and, as we all know, John is a very hard-working rider who never gives up. He will go into the new season with us on the Honda and a great team behind him; I believe together we can be very strong. It will be a great opportunity for both John and ourselves to work with an experienced rider in Moto3, who can fight at the top end. I’m also delighted that Ayumu Sasaki will be remaining with us for another year too. He is a young and talented rider who has shown great potential during his time with us already. I believe he will take an even bigger step in 2019. ”
#21 Franco Morbidelli (MotoGP)
“I’m really happy to have signed with the new PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for 2019, it’s a great opportunity for me. I want to thank Gianluca Falcioni, VR46, Johan Stigefelt, Wilco Zeelenberg and Lin Jarvis, who have all helped me with this new venture for 2019. It’s great to have the next season arranged, so that I can continue to be focused on this year; I still need to commit to being the best rider I can be this season. – I have to continue learning from every situation I face, to be ready and well prepared for next year.”
#20 Fabio Quartararo (MotoGP)
“I’m really happy and excited about this new challenge. I’ve always dreamed about riding in the MotoGP class and now it’s becoming a reality! I’m honoured that PETRONAS, SIC and Yamaha believe in me and I want to thank all the people who have made this happen. I know that I have a lot to learn in this new category, but I feel ready to take the step.”
#89 Khairul Idham Pawi (Moto2)
“Firstly, I would like to thank Johan Stigefelt, Razlan Razali and Sepang International Circuit [SIC] for having faith in me and giving me this opportunity. It’s great to have the next year finalised so early in the season, so now I can focus fully on what I have to do for the rest of this year in Moto2. I’m really looking forward to joining PETRONAS and Sepang International Circuit. To be in a Malaysian backed team with other Malaysians will really bring a sense of home for me. I want to represent my country well and make everyone proud. 2019 will be my third year in Moto2, so by then I really want to be targeting the top-10 more consistently and at least always be in the points.”
#17 John McPhee (Moto3)
“I’m really happy to be joining PETRONAS and Sepang International Circuit for 2019. They’ve given me a great opportunity and it’s fantastic to have this all sorted so early in the season. I already know most of the guys working there; they’re a great crew, friendly and very professional, so I think we can do a very good job together next year. Going into 2019, of course we need to be realistic, but I believe we can be challenging for race wins and potentially even the Championship Title. For sure, we’ll be looking to do the best job possible.”
#71 Ayumu Sasaki (Moto3)
“Firstly I have to say a big thanks to PETRONAS and SIC and all of the team for believing in me. I feel so happy to be continuing with the them. I feel really comfortable here; we all have a great relationship and work very well together. It’s great that I will have such a strong teammate in John next year too. He’s a fast guy and I think this will help me to make a bigger step. I think we can help each other to grow more and fight at the front together. It’s very exciting. Of course we still have the rest of this year, so I need to stay focused and push to do the best I can for the rest of 2018.
It’s great motivation to have signed; I was thinking a lot about this during the last few race weekends, so now I feel fresh and ready to focus on the rest of the year.”