Though Kawasaki is likely to announce its withdrawal from MotoGP officially on Monday, there's still reason to believe that there will be Kawasakis on the grid in 2009. As we reported earlier, Dorna has spent the last few days trying to convince both Kawasaki and Jorge "Aspar" Martinez to take over the Kawasaki team, and keep the bikes on the grid.
Martinez has made no secret of his desire to run a MotoGP team. The Valencian has been incredibly successful in both 125s and 250s, and wants to extend that success into the premier class. This came very close to happening towards the end of last season, when a deal between Kawasaki and Aspar finally foundered on a difference over riders, Kawasaki insisting on Shinya Nakano, Martinez saying his Spanish sponsors demanded a Spanish rider.
Initial reports by the Italian sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that Kawasaki could hand over the team to Jorge Martinez, who would run the team. But though it was thought that this would include both John Hopkins and Marco Melandri, Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that the Aspar team may only field a single Kawasaki in 2009, not two.
The problem, unsurprisingly, is money. Though Jorge Martinez would effectively get the Kawasaki team for nothing, that would still leave the Spaniard to find a large sum of money for the running costs of the teams. The 3 million euros in Monster Energy sponsorship is just about sufficient to cover John Hopkins' salary, and would leave the Aspar team to find both Marco Melandri's salary - which despite his poor year in 2008 is not likely to be cheap - as well as the funds to cover running the team for the entire year.
And so the option which GPOne.com suggests is likely is that Aspar would field just a single Kawasaki, with Dorna covering the team's expenses. Dorna would be prepared to stump up this kind of cash to support Aspar, as the company has a contract with the FIM requiring 18 bikes to be entered for the season if the series is to be earn the title of a world championship. And if MotoGP loses the status of a world championship, TV companies may be inclined to renegotiate their broadcast contracts with Dorna.
So providing Aspar with enough cash to run a single Kawasaki would get Dorna out of a sticky situation as well as providing Aspar with a new opportunity. Indeed, it may even offer Martinez the chance to run a Spanish rider, as he wanted to for his satellite project: With Dorna footing the bill, Martinez would be free to turn down the Monster Energy money, most of which would disappear into John Hopkins' bank account anyway. Martinez could then possibly offer a ride to Alex Debon again, a move which would help him sign the Spanish sponsors who were interested in his satellite project.
But this is all still speculation. An official announcement by Kawasaki is expected on Monday (January 5th). After that, it should be possible to make more realistic plans.