Yamaha's sponsorship situation is not as perilous as it seems. Departing Malaysian oil giant Petronas (announced at the end of last week) is to be replaced by Japanese oil brand ENEOS, which markets a range of high-end lubrication products from the Japanese oil giant JX Nippon.
The deal was uncovered by Greek website MotoGrandPrix.gr, who learned of it from the CEO of ENPO Hellas SA, the Greek importer of ENEOS products, and has been confirmed to MotoMatters.com by secondary sources. As ENEOS is in direct competition with Petronas, it was not possible to announce the fact that ENEOS would be replacing the Malaysian company in the press release issued last week due to contractual obligations. An official announcement of the deal is expected in the next week or two, most probably in the news vacuum once Ducati's annual MotoGP Wrooom event has concluded.
ENEOS and JX Nippon are no stranger to motorsports, having previously sponsored Honda's Formula One team, and currently being involved with with a team in the Japanese Super GT series. They have not yet been involved in motorcycle racing, however, and bringing a new brand into the sport is seen as a major coup for Yamaha, and a positive step for the team.
One point of interest is the question of just how prominent ENEOS' sponsorship will be on Jorge Lorenzo's and Ben Spies' Yamaha M1 machines. ENEOS' corporate identity uses a lot of orange, and there is already one MotoGP team sponsored by an oil company which uses orange as one of its main colors. However, having such a strong color will be a positive step in differentating the Yamaha: one of the golden rules of racing sponsorship is that you change your color scheme as soon as you switch sponsors. Continuing to use the same colors (even with a different design) keeps the old brand fixed in the minds of fans, essentially giving free exposure to former sponsors. Going with some bright orange to replace the dark blue will finally help break the link with Fiat that still exists in the subconscious of many race fans.