For a long time, it looked like it wasn't going to happen, but at last, it's been made official: Today, Suzuki announced that once again, they will be the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team. Negotiations had been dragging on for months, and after Rizla pulled out of sponsoring the Crescent Suzuki team in BSB, there was a great deal of speculation that they would follow suit for the MotoGP team, which is run by the same Crescent Suzuki organization.
Things started to swing back in Suzuki's favor at the Sepang tests in February. After Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen showed very strongly at Sepang, Capirossi even leading at one point, the talks with Rizla moved up a gear. And with Suzuki now looking a good deal more competitive than they did last year, Rizla may have decided to give it one last shot in MotoGP. At least, that's certainly the way things look, with the cigarette rolling paper company having signed on for just a single year.
The most interesting question will of course remain unanswered, and that is just what price Rizla paid for the highest prize in MotoGP sponsorship: to be title sponsor of a factory team. There is still anger in the paddock at the alleged pittance that the team sold the title sponsorship for. By selling themselves cheap, it was felt, it made it more difficult for other teams to get the true value of a title sponsorship, which should be nearer to 20 million euros for a factory team, rather than 2 or 3 million. On the upside, though, a major sponsor has been kept inside the MotoGP paddock, for another year at least.
At the IRTA Test in Jerez, Suzuki will roll out in their instantly recognizable powder blue livery, rather than the bland and indistinguishable blue and white Suzuki colors. Race fans will be glad of that, and that they won't need to buy a new set of t-shirts and caps for another year.