John McPhee is set to stay in the Moto3 class for 2017 and will compete aboard Honda machinery in a new grand prix team, Crash.net
The Scot, who won his maiden grand prix in wet conditions in Brno and sits 19th in the world championship, will leave the Peugeot MC Saxoprint squad at the end of the current campaign.
The exact details of McPhee's new team are still unknown, with the title sponsor and team personnel yet to be finalised.
However, it can be revealed that series organisers Dorna have asked Alberto Puig to use his intimate knowledge of the paddock to assemble the team to work around the Scot in what will be his fifth full season in the class.
It is believed Dorna are prepared to fund the team, such is their desire to have a British rider in the junior class. Puig is already involved in the running of the Asia Talent Cup, a six-round series aimed at discovering and nurturing talents from Asia.
As has been rumoured for some weeks, BT Sport – currently negotiating an extension of its five-year deal with Dorna to cover the series beyond 2018 – is a possible sponsor, but sources close to McPhee and the broadcaster have suggested they are unlikely to have a package in place to fund the team for 2017.
Speaking after securing a fighting 13th place finish at Aragon, McPhee confirmed the Honda machinery is in place, but was unable to comment further on specifics.
“It's looking like the Honda's there,” he told Crash.net
. “To be honest I really don't know any more than that. I don't know which team, which sponsor, where the money's coming from… That's still open at the minute. We're obviously still discussing it. I was hoping to find out more before the weekend but hopefully we'll definitely know more before Japan.”
Saxoprint team boss Terrell Thien had made his intentions of keeping McPhee for 2017 known after the Scot's consummate wet weather display in the Czech Republic, but admitted that he may already by looking for a ride elsewhere.
“I think John will have a good future,” Thien said at Brno. “I don't know where, with us, with someone else. It depends a little bit also on how competitive the bike will be for next year. I hope we can convince John to believe in the Mahindra-Peugeot project but this is not in my hands.”
From recent tests, it is clear that McPhee and the Saxoprint Peugeot team will be parting ways. First, the Scot was not asked to test at Valencia after the Misano Grand Prix. Then the team enlisted Dakota Mamola to try out the Peugeot Moto3 machine on the Monday after Aragon, rather than the Scot.
This came a day after the 22-year old said he was pleased with recent progress with the front end of his machine that allowed him to win out in a tight battle with Niccolo Antonelli, Bo Bendsneyder and Francesco Bagnaia.
“There were some good guys there that I was fighting with," McPhee said of the race. "Antonelli and Bendsneyder are both in factory teams. I managed to beat both of them. I've got to be happy with that. It's nice to see some progress being made.
“Basically we tried some different things with bike set-up. Nothing big, just small changes. We managed to get some more front feel with the bike. Ohlins have been working hard to bring some different bits, some new parts and it's all feeling really good. Chassis-wise, I'm really happy. We're looking for a bit more horsepower but today the engine performed well. I need to say thanks for all the team.
“I was second in the group. I didn't manage to pass anyone along the back straight and nearly got passed by Antonelli. I managed to close the line on Antonelli going into the last turn and carried the corner speed. I ran it out wide and actually passed Bendsneyder before I had even exited the last turn. So I got in front of him and had to do a bit of swerving before the line. I'm happy with that.”