The chief executive of Sepang International Circuit has moved to pour cold water on rumours the track is seeking to fund a takeover of an existing MotoGP team for 2019, and said the priority remains for Malaysian rider Hafizh Syahrin to stay with Tech3 for a second successive season.

Razlan Razali, the figure responsible for Syahrin’s surprise late call-up to the Tech3 fold in February, was present at Jerez last weekend to continue talks regarding the Malaysian’s future after an impressive opening to his rookie premier-class campaign.

Prior to the Spanish Grand Prix, rumours had circled linking the Sepang International Circuit to a takeover of an existing MotoGP team, with Syahrin pencilled in as one of the riders aboard Yamaha machinery.

Chances of this are “very, very remote,” according to Razali. “We are simply not ready for it,” he said, while refusing to completely rule out the possibility.

Razali feels Syahrin would be better served staying in “confident and comfortable” surroundings and Tech3 boss Hervé Poncharal told  that the 24-year-old “is a strong potential to be rider number two” in the French squad for 2019, when it switches from Yamaha to KTM machinery.

“We only have one rider in MotoGP right now,” said Razali, speaking to at Jerez. “He’s the first one. It’s his first year.

"Although at this stage we have a Moto2 and a Moto3 team, to go into MotoGP [with a team] is a totally different level and we’re simply not ready for it.

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“Yet if there’s a remote chance of doing it, then we’ll do it.

"But it’s not a priority for us because what is important is for Hafizh, our rider, to be comfortable where he is right now. I think the priority is for him to be comfortable where he is and where he wants to be next year.

“And that’s more important than running a satellite team for him, because it takes a lot of work to set up a MotoGP team. I’m not sure where this story has come from,” he said, referring to an article printed last week in the British press.

“Yes, we are here [at Jerez] because it’s the first European circuit. We are in discussion with some people for Hafizh next year.

"Definitely there are no concrete or any plans to run a satellite team, or a Yamaha for that matter.”

Pushed to expand on what he meant by “remote chance”, Razali responded: “Well, for us number one: if we do it, we do it for our Malaysian rider. But then the risk is that it’s a new team and I don’t want that to affect our rider.

"I want our rider to be confident and comfortable in the team he wants to be in next year. That’s important because after all, this is his first year. Next year will be a defining one in his career.

“So I want him to be comfortable where he is going to be – unless there is a remote chance for us to be able to set up [a team] based on what we want, from Yamaha, and then the right sponsors come along, like Petronas.

"It’s very, very remote at the moment, unless that opportunity arises. Hey, it would be silly of us to not take it up. Again it has to have a remote chance.”

So remaining with Tech3 is the priority?

“Prior to me arriving in the paddock this weekend I saw the interview that was held between Hervé and MotoGP,” said Razali. “Herve [said he] would like to see Oliveira [Tech3's first confirmed rider for 2019] and Hafizh. I fully support it!

"Again, when we had a meeting with Hafizh, he really enjoys the people around him. Yes, he’s getting used to the way things are getting done in MotoGP. After all, it’s his first year and he was just pushed into this by both myself and Hervé. So he’s learning.

“I mean, the story we have from Hafizh from the beginning of the year is a magical and fairytale one. It’s like a Cinderella story.

"Both of us – and especially Hervé – received a lot of criticism for taking Hafizh. But this boy proved that he could do it.”

Commenting on the chances of Tech3 re-signing Syahrin for 2019, Poncharal told he is seeking to finalise a deal with Red Bull as a title sponsor before the squad makes a final decision on its second rider, who will join Moto2 graduate Miguel Oliveira in the French team next year.

“We faced a big shock with Jonas Folger,” said Poncharal, referring to the German’s decision to sit out the ’18 season.

“I have to say Razlan Razali has been a fantastic guy. When I was in Sepang for the first test – we had Yonny Hernandez at that time – I was really lost. OK, we had Johann but the team is two riders. I had no idea, and everything I had in mind was not competitive, not exciting.

“Talking to Razlan, I just asked him, ‘What about Hafizh Syahrin?’ He said, ‘He’s a possibility.’ I said, ‘ But he’s already involved with you in Moto2.’ And he said, ‘Let’s do it.’

"I owe him a big, big thank you. When we did that, it was interesting, but we had no clue. It could have been a disaster.

“In the end it’s been a really good decision. ‘The Kid’ – I’m calling him ‘The Kid’ – has been a great guy. You cannot imagine how funny and clever he is. He’s a clown, but unbelievable, his sense of humour. He’s a bloody good rider. But you can still feel he is raw. He still has to be fine-tuned, polished.

"He’s been racing for quite a while. But last year he was racing his scooter on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. He’s got no idea. We have a big mission if we work with him because he’s got no idea of many things. When you see that and the results, we think, ‘if we can help him…’

"This guy is a strong potential to be rider number two. But it’s not signed. It’s not signed.”

If the Sepang International Circuit was to fully back an existing MotoGP team, the options are limited.

All teams are contracted to be on the grid until 2021, meaning they would have to buyout an existing squad.

“I mean, we have to look at the team,” said Razali. “The MotoGP paddock is very small. We want to work with the best team.

"I think Hafizh is in a very good team with Tech3. Everybody knows about Hervé and Tech3. I’ve been in the paddock for just over ten years but I know of Hervé. We’re happy.

"But we have to look. If an existing team comes to us and asks for help, we have to see who that team is.

"We are very careful. We want to make sure we would get involved with the right people, the right team, that shares the same vision as us and our sponsors.”

Speaking on Monday, Syahrin insisted he was thinking about 2019 as little as possible in order to maximise his current performance.

“For the moment I just focus on this year, because I don't want to put any stress and any trouble in my mind or my focus. Because I know the team will already go to KTM for the next year, but for me, I just try to be ready and try to give my best in every race.”



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