It has been a tough day for sponsorship news in the MotoGP paddock. After news earlier of LCR Honda's title sponsor CWM being subject of a fraud investigation, the Aspar Honda team have lost their title sponsor, Drive M7. The Malaysian energy drink firm have withdrawn their sponsorship of the team on the day before the 2015 season was due to start.
According to German language publication Speedweek, the Drive M7 management told team owner Jorge Martinez about the decision on Tuesday night. The decision was a surprise, as it had been expected that the deal would continue in 2015, with both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty riding in Drive M7 testing colors during preseason testing.
No reasons for the withdrawal have been given, but the checkered history of energy drinks suggest that the smaller brands find it hard to justify the major investment which investment in top-level racing requires. The Gresini Honda team suffered a similar fate last year, when sponsor Go&Fun failed to pay sponsorship owed and withdrew in the middle of the season. There is a long list of brands which have come and go, including Dark Dog, Grizzly, Power Horse, and Troy Corser's personal sponsor, Pussy.
Drive M7's withdrawal could pose a larger problem for Aspar than the issues facing the LCR team. Though the cost of leasing the Open class Honda RC213V-RS is lower than the factory RC213V, LCR is believed to have taken a large part of its sponsorship as a down payment, ensuring that the team still has funds. Aspar now faces the loss of a major part of their budget. Jorge Martinez has very strong connections to the business community in Valencia, but with several investigations ongoing into corruption related to the F1 race at Valencia, including into former business associates of Martinez, those potential sources of sponsorship are drying up.