VR46 team to race in MotoGP from 2022 with Saudi backing

Valentino Rossi’s VR46 squad will step up to MotoGP properly in 2022 and will be backed by Saudi Arabian oil giant Saudi Aramco.

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On Wednesday Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media, which is a holding company of Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al Suad, announced it had struck an agreement with the VR46 Team beginning in 2022.

Backed by Saudi Aramco as its main sponsor, the VR46 outfit will race in MotoGP from 2022 to 2026.

The partnership also hopes to build a communication strategy between VR46 and Tanal Entertainment Sport & Media to promote the Saudi Vision 2030 project.

The VR46 organisation is yet to make any official statement.

The Tanal Entertainment press release also confirms the VR46 team will continue to operate in the Moto2 class in 2022.

Rossi's team has been long-expected to join the MotoGP grid from 2022, taking the grid slots of the Avintia squad, who confirmed last year 2021 would be its last season in the premier class.

This move was further-boosted when Ducati announced it had signed Rossi's half-brother Luca Marini to join Avintia for the 2021 season on a VR46-backed Desmosedici.

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It remains unclear which manufacturer VR46 will join forces with in 2022.

Motorsport.com understands its preference is Suzuki, but the Japanese marque is yet to publicly firm up any plans to field two more GSX-RR's from 2022.

Ducati recently confirmed to Motorsport.com that it planned to continue running six bikes in 2022 despite Avintia's departure, and is understood to be close to a deal with Gresini – who will return to independent status in 2022 having run Aprilia's factory entry since 2015.

Rossi's right-hand man Uccio Salucci said earlier in the year that VR46's "heart" lies with Yamaha: "We don't know which bike we will go to MotoGP with, [but] for sure we all know that our heart is with Yamaha."

Yamaha's current deal with Petronas SRT expires at the end of 2021, with Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis admitting earlier this year that discussions for a satellite partner for next season will likely be between SRT and VR46.

It's also unclear what a VR46 team in 2022 means for Rossi's own racing career, with the nine-time grand prix world champion keen to continue.

However, SRT boss Razlan Razali noted earlier this year that Rossi has performance criteria in his contract he must meet before any discussions about 2022 with Yamaha can be had.

Rossi is currently 19th in the standings after the first three rounds in 2021 having scored just four points.

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