It was the news that many people had been waiting for. But then it wasn’t …
A press release was circulated ahead of the 2021 Spanish MotoGP in Jerez claiming VR46 – Valentino Rossi’s team itself – would make the step into the 2022 MotoGP World Championship all-day.
The press release said it was being financed with funds from Saudi Arabia, namely oil giant Aramco, although the message itself came from Tanal Entertainment, a holding company owned by Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Suad, a member of the Saudi royal family.
While it certainly sounds official, the details of the deal seem to have surprised some, with Aramco reportedly being unaware of a contract, while the press release was particularly vague and omitted quotes, which seems surprising for an announcement of such a size.
On the subject of matching items
Rossi himself was evasive of the announcement at first but later said he doesn’t understand why Aramco is playing stupid and says: “We know we have a deal with Aramco to do that [MotoGP] Team, “insisted Rossi.” … I honestly don’t know [why] Aramco says they don’t know! “
On the subject of matching items
So far, so confusing … and shades of the bizarrely short-lived Onde 2000 team that had money linked to Equatorial Guinea and the Dominican Republic-backed JR Racing WorldSBK team that started with Troy Corser and then stopped his calls returned.
For the most part, however, it appears that certain parties fail to “get clocks in sync” to get a common message across the board, as few have any doubts that VR46 is actually preparing to enter 2022 move up the MotoGP class as the new cycle of team contracts in MotoGP begins.
Aramco’s commitment is no surprise either. The company has become increasingly visible in motorsport over the past few years and has supported a number of F1 races. This year the first Saudi Arabia Grand Prix will take place, following the first Formula E races and the Dakar Rally the kingdom recently followed.
However, this seemingly premature announcement carries its own risks. Saudi Arabia has been accused in recent months of using motorsport to “sport-wash” its reputation and divert attention from alleged human rights violations. Grant Liberty, a nonprofit advocating and fighting for human rights around the world, says more than $ 1.5 billion has been spent on “sportwashing” to bolster Saudi Arabia’s global reputation.
It’s logical to coordinate with the most marketable man in motorsport, but the social media response for VR46 has been a bit negative.
Even so, Rossi believes that getting involved in sports sponsorship is a positive step towards improving the domestic situation in Saudi Arabia.
“Aramco in particular has supported many different sports from football in recent years and it is also very strong in motorsport. It also supports Formula 1. For us it is an important partner and can help us to form the team in MotoGP. “
“And after the rest, we’ll see, maybe we can do something to improve the situation. But from our point of view, our relationship is for it. “
Despite the evasive maneuvers, those with a keen eye for detail may have seen Marco Bezzecchi – VR46’s Moto2 rider – wearing new stickers that read “KSA New Cities,” as if that suggests some cash is already on Saudi Arabia flows into VR46.
Will Valentino Rossi drive for VR46?
He’s not ruling it out, although, as always, Rossi is very cautious about whether he’ll be on the starting line-up in 2022. His words above preceded what was arguably his least convincing weekend in MotoGP when he qualified 17th and ended up in a race right there, putting his Petronas SRT Yamaha teammate Franco Morbidelli on the podium.
It appears that for the most part, VR46’s advertising is separate from Rossi’s actions. It dipped a toe in MotoGP waters back in 2021 by assisting Luca Marini on an Avintia Ducati ride.
VR46’s entry is widely expected to supersede Avintia, although it hasn’t ruled out that this could become the official satellite effort with Yamaha as Petronas SRT ponders its options for 2022.