It's hard to underestimate the impact of the shocking news yesterday that Kawasaki will be pulling out of MotoGP. And today, more bad news about teams arrives, only this time, accompanied by good news.
The bad news is that, according to Spanish sports daily AS.com, the Pramac Ducati team will only field 1 rider next year, the Finn Mika Kallio. The move has been forced as a result of Alice, the Italian telecoms sponsor, withdrawing its sponsorship from the Pramac team, leaving the satellite Ducati squad short of cash.
The good news is that this will not leave Niccolo Canepa, Ducati's promising young test rider, out of a job. The same paper is also reporting that the young Italian will be a team mate to Sete Gibernau in the Grupo Francisco Hernando team, better known as Onde 2000 in the 125 and 250 classes, run by the Nieto cousins. Despite the global recession, money is still no object for the GFH team, the personal project of Francisco "El Pocero" Hernando, a Spanish property tycoon whose career has been surrounded by allegations of corruption: From the very beginning of the project, "Paco" Hernando had wanted to field a two-bike team, stating that he was willing to make the budget available.
At first turned down by Ducati, now, Hernando will get his way. With both Canepa and Gibernau, the GFH team now has both a seasoned veteran and a talented youngster, and Canepa could well profit from Gibernau's experience.
Though the saving of Canepa by Francisco Hernando is good for MotoGP, it's not quite so good for Africa. Part of the sponsorship for the GFH team involves promoting a project being built by Hernando in Equatorial Guinea, one of Africa's most corrupt countries, coming 151st out of 163 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in 2006. Hernando is building a luxury vacation complex in the country for the Spanish tourist market, and as a former Spanish colony, and a country where most of the population speak Spanish, Equatorial Guinea would seem like an ideal location. Of course, just how profitable it is to do business with a corrupt regime, run by a man who a prominent US journalist described as "Africa's worst dictator, worse than Robert Mugabe" remains to be seen. Money may be tight in MotoGP, but sometimes you have to wonder if there are some things which are more important than motorcycle racing.