Kawasaki's MotoGP program looks another step closer to its demise today. On the eve of the first official MotoGP test at Sepang, various reports are appearing that the green bikes won't be present. After private testing at Eastern Creek and Phillip Island with Olivier Jacque, the Kawasakis have been packed up and most likely shipped back to Japan.
A Kawasaki absence at Sepang almost certainly means the attempts to keep their MotoGP program alive will have failed. Deadlines have come and gone with no official word on the outcome of the talks being held. Team boss Michael Bartholemy flew out to Japan for talks with Kawasaki bosses two weeks ago, and a decision was expected last Wednesday. Then, rumors emerged that the decision had been postponed until February 2nd, which came and went again with no word.
The latest rumors surrounding the situation are taken from Marco Melandri's Facebook status updates, suggesting that the Italian has a "big meeting" today, Wednesday, though the Italian was less forthcoming on what the meeting might be about. There has been talk that Melandri has been offered a buyout of his contract, which would allow him to ride another bike, and this could be related to the "meeting" Macio refers to on his Facebook page.
John Hopkins, meanwhile, is filling his days with a road trip across the US, according to MCN. The American has been spotted at an AMA Supercross event, but did not speak to reporters there. Earlier rumors that Hopper could be about to sign for Stiggy Motorsports in World Superbikes have been denied by the team boss, Johan Stigefelt.
If Kawasaki does not make an appearance on the grid, the next move will be for Carmelo Ezpeleta to make. The Dorna CEO has threatened to sue Kawasaki if they don't show up, for breaching a contract which committed them to MotoGP through 2011. But it is doubtful that Ezpeleta would go that far, as it would kill any chance of Kawasaki ever returning to the series while Dorna is still organizing it. It would also give the remaining manufacturers pause for thought, and while threats might keep them onboard until 2011, they would also make them more inclined to quit once they could step away from the series once the contract has expired. But with the Japanese economy being laid waste by the current economic crisis, at least one other Japanese maker may not even make it that far.