By Simon Hancocks
FROM THE BIGGEST MESS of the 1990s to one of the most sought after and rare motorcycles on the planet – the Foggy Petronas FP1 is the only true unicorns of motorcycle folklore.
Now a British firm, Lazante – a classic racing team – are finishing up the final preparations on a haul of the never-seen bikes, prior to them going on sale. In a post on the company’s Instagram page they claim: ‘A rare two-wheeled project we are working on. All [FP1s] bikes are being put into full working order and made available with all spare parts backup.’
The three-cylinder FP1 was a project originally steered by the Asian petrochemical giant, Petronas and Sauber Petronas Engineering. The original bike, the GP1, was meant for the MotoGP grid with Petronas shifting the project to World Superbike (WSBK) at the eleventh hour. To fit the regulations for WSBK the engine capacity was reduced from 989cc to 899cc and Petronas was tasked with the task of building 150 versions of the bike to adhere to the homologation rules – that state a WSBK must have a certain number of road-legal bikes available for sale – preventing one-off race bikes from competing.
The first 75 bikes were built in the UK by MXS International, Basildon, Essex and meant that the team could compete in the 2003 WSBK championship. While the racing took place, Petronas switched production over to Malaysia and completed the other 75 roadgoing FP1s, of which 100 were made available to the public, while the other 50 were held back for racing.
Trouble loomed for the FP1 though as after a first season with relative success, the FIM flipped the rulebook allowing three-cylinder bikes to run a capacity of 1000cc, leaving the 899cc FP1 at a slight disadvantage to the field. With a handful of podiums, the FP1 was eventually shelved in 2006 as Petronas moved away to look at partnerships elsewhere, eventually joining forces with the AMG Mercedes F1 team in 2010.
WSBK’s loss though is our gain, as the lack of racing, and crashes means there is still a sizeable haul of FP1s tucked away in a warehouse somewhere waiting to be ridden. There was a bit of a cold war around these bikes as Petronas really didn’t want to let them go, preferring to turn the page on the ill-fated WSBK project that reportedly flushed £30m down the drain. It was originally thought the bikes were shipped back to Malaysia and ‘disposed of’, but all this time they have been stuffed in a workshop somewhere gathering dust!
We’ve contacted the company holding the bikes to ask for further information but as yet haven’t heard back. We’ll update you with more information as we get it.