The rumor has been circulating for a very long time, but news that Rizla will be withdrawing its sponsorship from Suzuki's MotoGP team is moving rapidly from the realm of speculation to the world of fact. The rumors started after Rizla announced that it would be withdrawing its backing from the Crescent Suzuki BSB project, which is part of the same program run by Paul Denning and Jack Valentine behind the Suzuki MotoGP team, and was a common theme for paddock gossip for the second half of 2008.
Now, the Italian magazine Sport Moto is reporting the news as fact: Rizla will withdraw funding from Suzuki's MotoGP team, costing Suzuki some 3.5 million euros per year. The news will add to the speculation which rumbles on that Suzuki could choose to pull out of MotoGP before the season starts, a rumor which is strenuously denied by the MotoGP team. And the relatively small amount - in relation to the budget, which is likely to be over 10 times that figure - in lost income would not appear to be an insurmountable problem: It probably only barely covered the salaries of riders Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi, if at all.
Ironically, the rest of the paddock may well be glad to see Rizla depart as a sponsor. Not because of the loss of income for Suzuki - nobody will welcome that - but because it was widely felt that Suzuki had given Rizla a place as title sponsor at an untenably cheap price, and the paltry sum asked by Suzuki had dragged down the price that other teams could demand from sponsors for the same role. In the long term, Suzuki losing Rizla money could end up bringing more money into MotoGP, and leave it on a more sound financial footing.
While Rizla is poised to leave, there is good news from the Tech 3 Yamaha camp. Previously, Wudy, an Italian sausage maker, announced they would be withdrawing sponsorship from Tech 3 - probably much to the relief of Colin Edwards, who could never keep a straight face whenever the sponsor's name and product was mentioned. But Sport Moto is reporting that a new sponsor is to join the team, providing a welcome injection of funds, with an official announcement to be made at the Sepang test next week.
Speculation continues over whether this could be Monster Energy. Monster has boosted its sponsorship of Yamaha over the past few weeks, joining Valentino Rossi as a helmet sponsor, as well as sponsoring Yamaha's American Superbike team. The energy drink maker became title sponsor of the Rinaldi Yamaha motocross team last year, and continues to expand its partnership with the Japanese factory. There is good reason to suspect that the Green Claw logo will be appearing on the side of the Tech 3 bikes in Malaysia next week.