As Erik Buell will tell you, starting a motorcycle company is no easy task. Even if you’re offering a solid product, getting marketing, a dealer network, and infrastructure set up can often make or break a company’s shot at success. The latter is essentially what happened to the short-lived motorcycles division of Petronas. Only 150 units (50 for racing, 100 for public sale) were produced in 2003 with the first 75 being produced in the U.K. and the remaining half being made in Malaysia, making it the first ever super bike to be produced in the southeast Asian country. Despite Petronas’ lack of success, it nonetheless developed and delivered 150 ultra-exclusive machines with (then) top of the line performance and a truly beautiful appearance.
When the ambitious project began, the aim was to create a machine to compete in MotoGP but at some point developing a premier class racer was abandoned and the new focus became building a WSBK racer. Carl “Foggy” Fogarty – four-time WSBK World Champion – teamed up with Petronas to form “Foggy Petronas Racing” with Troy Corser and James Haydon signing on as pilots to compete in WSBK. They managed to nab a couple podiums in their handful of years in WSBK but it was ultimately not a very successful campaign, even while being lead by WSBK’s most successful pilot of all time.
The elite FP1 was manufactured for Petronas by the Essex-based engineering firm MSX International, and was built around a Suter Racing liquid-cooled 899.5cc four-stroke, DOHC inline-three (four valves per cylinder) engine married to a six-speed transmission. The Austrian-built inline-three was good for a cool 127.4 hp at 10,000 RPM and 67.9ft/lbs of torque at 9,700RPM. This particular example is brand new with only 7km on the odo. Around 2012 there was an effort to revive the FP1 under a new name, the Momoto MM1, but to the best of my knowledge Momoto shared a similar fate to Petronas.
Of the 100 units made available to the public, three livery options were offered: Panache Green, Misty Grey, and Exotic Black, which this example is sporting. The road-going spec of the FP1 did a remarkable job of retaining the race bike appearance of the competition FP1 that was obviously designed first, even with its clean, stacked, flush headlights, the FP1 is unquestionably a race replica in the truest sense. The street FP1 did unfortunately lose a decent amount of power when adapting to the street, down to 127bhp from 185bhp, though at only 181kg (399lbs) the streetable FP1 is still an impressive machine even fifteen years after its creation.
Foggy – who is hopefully recovering nicely from his recent Dirt Quake mishap – once stated: “There is no doubt that this will be the most beautiful bike on the roads. It combines cutting edge technology with real elegance and has set new standards at the top end of the road bike market,” and quite frankly it’s hard to disagree with him. The FP1 is genuinely sculpture-esque. The smooth flowing lines and heavily race-derived appearance really did help to give this failed endeavor a fighting chance. The FP1 was also fitted with some trick stock components such as its display and three-pipe under-tail exhaust. As you’d expect the rest of the components were also top of the line, such as full Öhlins suspenders.
Petronas had more grandiose plans than simply building a competition homologation racer. The plan was to make an impression and establish an elite identity with the FP1 which would first be made in Europe, before operations would be moved to Malaysia. This way Petronas hoped people would still think of it as a European manufacturer, not unlike how KTM and BMW who both produce (some) models in India. The company then planned on introducing more models, including cheaper more accessible lower-spec models, but obviously this failed to come to fruition. Bringing an elite bike to market with no infrastructure was seemingly a taller order than Petronas had anticipated.
Though they were built around ’02-’03, the FP1 wouldn’t go on sale until ’05 but only at a single dealership in Malaysia, as of 2009 said dealership still had two left in stock that were being sold for $40,450 (or £31,433). While these elite machines are obviously rare, MCN somehow managed to stumble across a “secret hoard” of 60 brand new FP1s (valued at around £2M) inside a bunker near Essex (UK) that were previously thought to have been shipped to Malaysia in 2005 to be disposed of. After you deduct the units set aside for racing and the additional 60 units found in Essex in 2010, the FP1 becomes even more coveted and rare.
As you can imagine, determining the value of these elite two-wheelers is fairly complicated but if anyone has a grasp on this type of thing it’s Ben Whitworth, a motorcycle valuation expert for prestigious auction house Bonhams. “It’s tricky. The Petronas might be a bit long in the tooth compared to modern top-flight superbikes costing around £15,000 ($19,300) but the kudos of owning such a limited edition is certainly comparable to Ducati’s Desmosedici at £40-45,000 ($51,500-$57,900) Very broadly speaking I reckon an example would be between £15,000-25,000 ($19,300-$32,175). But until one is actually sold at auction and sets a precedent that remains very much a guesstimate. It would be fascinating to see,” said Whitworth.
This example was recently fully serviced (including all fluids, new battery and new tires) and is reportedly “ready to run”. Though they’ve been removed, this sale includes the bike’s stock mirrors, signals and rear-lighting. The seller for whatever reason lists this example as a 2005 model – the year it went on sale – though I believe it’s technically a 2003. You can find this rare early-mid 2000’s Petronas FP1 for sale here on RaceBikeMart.com in Switzerland with a price of $37,950 (or £29,500).