After weeks of speculation, finally an official announcement has been made. Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced that it was officially pulling out of MotoGP. All the rumors and hopes of Dorna somehow being able to put together a deal have come to nothing: the economic situation is too bleak, with no hope of relief in the immediate future, for Kawasaki to be able to justify the necessary investment.
But for those with a penchant for exegesis, the news is not quite as dark as it may seem. The official statement (shown below) says that Kawasaki will "suspend its factory MotoGP racing activities from 2009." The two key words there are "suspend" and "factory".
For it looks like there will still be 19 motorcycles on the MotoGP grid. The main speculation in the press is that Jorge Martinez is still looking to run the team for 2009, but there are good reasons to doubt this is the case. The Spanish manager of the Aspar team had previously told reporters that a commitment to developing the MotoGP bikes and a three-year deal were the minimum requirements if he was to get involved in running the team, and that is very clearly missing from this statement.
The Italian website GPOne.com is reporting that it will not be Martinez, but current manager Michael Bartholemy who will be running the team. Under the alleged deal, Bartholemy would be given the Kawasaki ZX-RRs, together with a guarantee of spare parts and a maintenance agreement which would mean that Kawasaki would rebuild the engines sent back to Akashi by the team. However, development on the bike would effectively cease, and as the bike in its current state is basically a slightly revamped version of the totally uncompetitive 2008 bike, the chances of it being a perennial backmarker are substantial.
Below is the official press release issued by Kawasaki:
09/01/2009 - For Immediate Release
KAWASAKI PRESS RELEASE
Tokyo, January 9, 2009 -- Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. announced today that it has decided to suspend its factory MotoGP racing activities from 2009 season.
Amid quickly changing business environment, Kawasaki has been promptly taking countermeasures to cope with the situation. 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.
Kawasaki will continue racing activities using mass-produced motorcycles as well as supporting general race-oriented customers.
Kawasaki would like to thank all the fans and all those who have forwarded us great help.
Mr.Yoshio Kawamura, the Managing Director of Kawasaki Motors Racing B.V. deeply appreciates the contribution and the dedication brought by staff members of the MotoGP team.