Kawasaki announces MotoGP pull-out
Fates of Hopkins and Melandri unknown
The announcement confirms the speculation that began after word of a withdrawal from racing began to spread through the European press in late December.
The “quickly changing business environment” was cited as the main reason behind the decision.
“As the world economy is not likely to recover in a short period due to the major impact of the financial crisis, Kawasaki decided to suspend its MotoGP racing activities from 2009 season onward and reallocate management resources more efficiently,” states the official announcement.
The announcement also suggests that Kawasaki’s Superbike programs will continue, stating the manufacturer “will continue racing activities using mass-produced motorcycles as well as supporting general race-oriented customers”.
Kawasaki’s announcement was expected earlier in the week. MotoGP promoter Dorna Sports began negotiations with the manufacturer and the team’s management to convince Kawasaki to reconsider. Kawasaki was reportedly under contract to compete through to 2011. Kawasaki has participated in MotoGP racing since 2003.
Dorna is reportedly seeking options that would allow the team to continue racing without the support of the manufacturer. Aspar Racing Team chief Jorge Martinez told Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport that he had been contacted by Dorna to assume control of the race team and its Ninja ZX-RR bikes.
The announcement made no mention of the Kawasaki team’s two contracted riders, John Hopkins and Marco Melandri.
Kawasaki is the latest Japanese manufacturer to announce the suspension of racing activities. Honda has previously announced the suspension of its activities in Formula One racing and AMA Road Racing. Suzuki and Subaru have also announced the withdrawal of its World Rally Championship teams.