Inside the deal: How CryptoData plans to bring the Red Bull model to MotoGP

Having saved RNF Racing from collapse last year, CryptoData now has its sights set on revolutionising MotoGP. BlackBook Motorsport talks to Bogdan Maruntis, head of global strategy at CryptoData, and Razlan Razali, team principal of RNF Racing, to find out how.

Just one year ago, it seemed as though RNF Racing’s time on the MotoGP grid was set to come to an end.

The Malaysian outfit joined the top tier of global motorcycling in 2019, gradually expanding an operation that began in the Moto3 junior series in 2015. Initially racing under the Sepang Racing Team banner, it was the first-ever Southeast Asian team to compete in MotoGP.

Indeed, it’s been far from the easiest start to life at the top level: the team’s second season was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Without support from Dorna Sports, the commercial rights holder of the series, RNF Racing would have struggled to make it through the year.

From that point on, financial issues became an unwelcome but prevailing theme for the team through recurring sponsorship misfortune.

First, Malaysian oil and gas giant Petronas stepped aside as the team’s principal partner at the end of the 2021 season. Less than a year later, energy supplier WithU withdrew its title sponsorship due to financial issues caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

At the time, Carlos Ezpeleta, chief sporting officer of Dorna Sports, told BlackBook Motorsport that he had every confidence “the team will continue” in 2023. However, the reality of the situation was much more dire for RNF Racing.

On the brink

Ezpeleta may have been putting on a brave face in public, but RNF Racing would not have made it to the end of 2022 – let alone continued into 2023 – without financial assistance. In private, it was actually Dorna Sports that stepped in to offer much needed aid before the team’s new majority shareholder, CryptoData, came onboard in November last year.

“When we had these [financial] issues last year, I could not guarantee whether we could even finish the season,” RNF Racing team principal Razlan Razali tells BlackBook Motorsport. “On the back of Suzuki’s withdrawal [from MotoGP], the last thing [Dorna Sports] wants is another team in trouble.

“As soon as CryptoData showed its commitment to invest in us, Dorna extended financial assistance to ensure we could finish the season.”

Interestingly, CryptoData’s “commitment to invest” was far from concrete before a deal was finalised. In short, the blockchain technology company was in discussions with an entirely different team when it learned of RNF Racing’s financial situation.

“We were in discussions to buy a Moto2 team, because it’s difficult to buy a MotoGP team,” explains Bogdan Maruntis, CryptoData’s head of global strategy. “We were speaking with [Pons Racing team owner] Sito Pons to buy his team. After that, we were in the paddock and a friend came to us with [the RNF Racing] news.

“He said that maybe it’s an opportunity for us to buy the team, but it’s very tight. We met on a Saturday and, after one hour, I said we’ll buy the team. In two weeks, we had prepared everything.”

The arrangement aligns nicely with the company’s goals in the sport, enabling it to control the business side of the team while allowing RNF Racing to continue operating the sporting side.

Levelling the playing field

Maruntis has been a MotoGP fan since he was a child. Growing up in his native Romania has shaped his approach to the sport today and he even claims to have competed in motorcycle racing at a minor level in his home country.

CryptoData the company may be new to MotoGP, but Maruntis’ personal background means it’s not an entirely unknown world. Still, there is an education process for the company to go through in order to ingratiate itself.

“The first step in our plan is to understand exactly what drives the business of MotoGP, what’s working, what’s not working, and what we have to do,” Maruntis says.

Go deeper

Upon gaining this grounding in the sport, Maruntis wants to revolutionise the concept of a satellite team in MotoGP. He does little to play down the company’s far from modest goals.

“We are a satellite team, we know that we cannot be competitive at the moment with the facilities,” he explains. “We want to change [to be more] like Formula One, and be like Red Bull but as a technology integrator in motorsport.”

For those unaware, MotoGP has both factory and satellite teams. More often than not, the main manufacturers compete at the front of the field, whereas a satellite team leases its equipment from a factory outfit. Moreover, the satellite team will not have access to the latest technology, and it may even compete with bikes from the previous season.

Maruntis hopes that, in six or seven years, CryptoData can level the playing field for satellite teams. This is all part of an overarching plan that, beyond satellite teams, draws inspiration from the Red Bull model in Formula One.

RNF Racing had to undertake end-of-season testing in 2022 with a blank livery due to their issues around sponsorship

Replicating the Red Bull model

Looking to Red Bull in Formula One is certainly a lofty ambition, but it demonstrates CryptoData’s commitment to growing in MotoGP.

Contrary to what its name suggests, Maruntis points out that CryptoData is not actually a cryptocurrency company but admits that the assumptions people may draw has impacted the business to an extent. Ultimately, he says, whether it’s “good news [or] bad news, it’s okay if you have engagement”.

Developing security and data encryption products based on blockchain technology at least separates the company from crypto somewhat and the volatility that comes with the market. This has enabled it to create a ten-year plan through its purchase of RNF Racing.

We want to build racing simulators to give children the possibility to train in this sport, because motorsport is expensive. If they win [a competition], they can [fund their motorcycling entry] with the money that they earn from the competition. In this way, we will make motorsport more accessible.

– Bogdan Maruntis, Head of Global Strategy, CryptoData

“We want to develop a racing academy, we want to develop and involve universities from around the world, give engineers and students the possibility to learn aerodynamics, things that can improve MotoGP bikes,” Maruntis states.

CryptoData wants to recreate the Red Bull environment where a fleet of young drivers are all vying for a position at the top level – but for engineers. The idea, Maruntis explains, is that “if [they produce] something good, we can test it, we can put it on our bike”.

But CryptoData also wants to open up the opportunity for young riders to compete in an increasingly expensive sport.

“We want to build racing simulators to give children the possibility to train in this sport, because motorsport is expensive,” he says. “If they win [a competition], they can [fund their motorcycling entry] with the money that they earn from the competition. In this way, we will make motorsport more accessible.”


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