American team Trackhouse Racing is heavily tipped to become the unlikely saviour of Aprilia’s satellite MotoGP operation for the 2024 season, according to The Race’s sources in the MotoGP paddock.
The race-winning NASCAR team jointly owned by rapper Pitbull is in talks with series organiser Dorna to take over the RNF Racing grid spots for next year amid the departure of team principal Razlan Razali only days before the start of pre-season testing.
The news that Razali’s team was facing difficulties was first reported earlier this Valencian Grand Prix weekend by The Race, amid allegations of a feud with Romanian team co-owner CryptoData, to whom the Malaysian sold 60% of his team at the end of the 2022 season.
That split has seemingly since been confirmed by Razali, who posted a farewell message on social media on Saturday to announce his departure from the squad that he initially built out of the collapse of the former Petronas Yamaha team.
“It has been an amazing run,” he posted. “A once in a lifetime opportunity to manage and own a MotoGP team in the world championship. We know what it’s like to win and especially in losing.
“Worked with the most amazing team members from all over the world. We discovered a world champion in Fabio [Quartararo], we were nearly world champion with Frankie [Franco Morbidelli], we had GOAT Vale [Valentino Rossi], MotoGP legend Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso], we took the risk in Darryn [Binder] and finally the fastest dentist in the world with Miguel [Oliveira] and a champion in waiting Raul [Fernandez].
“The team was my extended family, my second home and we should be proud of what we have achieved and become. What lies ahead? It will be another beginning albeit a different one and I shall watch with the greatest encouragement and excitement. Let’s go team.”
It is believed that CryptoData had initially hoped to continue running the team without Razali’s involvement but, amid talk of an ongoing dispute with Dorna over the title sponsorship fees for this year’s Austrian GP, it seems that the Spanish race promoter has instead looked elsewhere to fill next year’s grid and is now in talks with the NASCAR squad.
Trackhouse Racing was formed by ex-NASCAR racer Justin Marks in 2021, taking over the stock car operations of Chip Ganassi Racing with the assistance of Grammy-winning rapper and songwriter Pitbull, who joined Marks as a co-owner of the team.
The team has had considerable success in its first three seasons in NASCAR's main Cup series, with wins for drivers Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain - the latter responsible for the viral 'video game' wall-ride move at Martinsville last year.
Also generating headlines for Trackhouse has been its part-time Project91 initiative, which has been established to field guest star drivers in NASCAR and raced with Formula 1 2008 champion Kimi Raikkonen and Australian touring car star Shane van Gisbergen this year - van Gisbergen sensationally winning on his NASCAR debut.
Trackhouse joining would mark the completion of an important target for Dorna by bringing both more American interest into the premier class of two-wheeled racing while also potentially adding a high-profile celebrity backer to the grid as it attempts to reverse declining audiences in the crucial US market.
And, with Aprilia retaining the ownership of both RNF’s leased bikes and the contracts of Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez, the process of transitioning them over to new team management for next season would be a relatively smooth one - and one that factory team boss Massimo Rivola is believed to have spent much of this weekend at Valencia working on.
He is in talks with representatives of Trackhouse Racing, who are present in Valencia this weekend, with former Alpinestars and Triumph Racing manager Jeremy Appleton believed to be helping guide them through the talks with Aprilia.
And, in fact, the injection of US money into the team might result in a dramatic improvement in their fortunes going forward, with hints already being dropped that the new operation will invest not in running year-old RS-GP machines next year but will instead attempt to fund brand new factories-spec 2024 bikes to start the season on.
That’s something that would upgrade the team to the same status as other top-tier satellite teams such as 2023 teams' champion Pramac Ducati as well as allaying this year’s repeated technical issues, something that Fernandez has pinned largely on the age of the equipment that the team is currently using.
However, while the new American deal seems to be progressing at a pace that would potentially even allow the team to rebrand ahead of Tuesday’s post-season test at Valencia, current owner CryptoData is at least for now continuing with its own plans, with a Saturday night announcement planned at the Spanish track.
Set to announce a partnership with Romanian dance music festival Untold, it remains to be seen how its future MotoGP aspirations fit with both Dorna’s plans and the two parties’ rumoured current disagreement.