The Petronas FP1 is an extremely rare race homologation motorcycle complete with a story that’s chock full of twists and turns. If you’d rather skip all that and just want to own one, though, a zero-mile 2003 example is currently up for sale as of September 2, 2021. Who could really blame you when they’re this beautiful to look at?
For those unfamiliar with the sad tale of the Petronas FP1, it goes a little something like this. Malaysian oil giant Petronas decided that it wanted to get into MotoGP. If you follow Formula One at all, chances are excellent that you’re already quite familiar with Petronas’ very special Panache Green liveries. It wisely chose to use that scheme on some of these bikes, too—including the one that’s currently for sale.
Anyway, at some point in the process, the story goes that Petronas changed its mind and said “no, we’ll enter WSBK instead.” That may or may not have had something to do with the fact that it also teamed up with four-time WSBK champion Carl Fogarty. Both series have vastly different rules about machine requirements, so Petronas also had to suddenly reduce displacement to 899cc in order to compete.
The svelte, triple-engined bike made 127 horsepower, and if WSBK rules had stayed as Petronas expected, the bike might have had a chance. Unfortunately, WSBK decided to change its rules after Petronas had already made and homologated the 150 bikes required to compete in the series. The series revised its engine displacement requirement upward, making machines up to 1,000cc legal—which, ironically, was what Petronas would have produced had it gone with its original MotoGP specs.
Taking full advantage of this new displacement bump, other teams instantly blew the Petronas FP1 out of the water. Granted, small teams usually don’t come in and set new track lap records immediately, but this extreme case of bad timing meant the team literally couldn’t win.
Remember that magical homologation number of 150 bikes that Petronas had to produce in order to compete? Well, half of those were built in Petronas’ home country, Malaysia—and half were built in the U.K. so the team could get on with racing in 2003.
Of all the bikes built, 50 were kept for racing, with the intention of selling the remainder to the public with lights and mirrors to make them road-legal. However, none of them actually made it out into the world until 2005, and then only through a single dealership in Malaysia. Later, a full-on international tax and legal battle ensued over a bunch of these bikes, but that’s another story for another time.
Gallery: 2003 Petronas FP1
Jumping ahead to 2018, a British company called Lanzante Limited got its hands on a near-miraculous-seeming stash of FP1s found sitting quietly in an unassuming British bunker. That company is better known for restoring classic race cars, but as the great Winston Zeddemore once said, “when someone asks if you’re a god, you say YES.” Thus, the company surely pinched itself to make sure it wasn’t dreaming, and then immediately began preparing these extremely rare bikes for sale to the world.
It’s unclear whether one of those Lanzante bikes is what Iconic Motorbike Auctions is currently offering out of its Santa Monica, California headquarters. With the extreme rarity of these bikes, that seems pretty likely, and we’re sure whoever wins the auction will learn plenty about this specific bike’s provenance.
The auction ends on September 3, 2021, and the current bid is up to $28,300 with a reserve price that has not yet been met. The video shows both a walkaround and a cold startup, so we all get to hear that FP1 roar. Since it hasn’t been run in 20 years, it will need servicing if you win this auction and plan to ride it.