Head Of Suzuki Racing: "We Came Close To Pulling Out Of MotoGP"

Around the time that Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP, rumors persisted that Suzuki, too, was on the verge of pulling out. A number of sources inside Japan spoke of Suzuki withdrawing, as we reported earlier, but the Suzuki MotoGP team consistently denied the rumors, dismissing them as just talk.

But they were more than that, as an interview which GPOne.com is carrying with Shinichi Sahara, head of Suzuki's MotoGP team, makes clear. Sahara told GPOne.com "At around the same time that Kawasaki officially announced its withdrawal, Suzuki were also considering it as well. Why did we choose to stay? Because Hamamatsu is convinced that competition is in our DNA, and is important for our image. In the end, the final word was for our President, Osamu Suzuki."

Sahara said that contracts with Dorna played no part in the decision: "There were no contractual problems with Dorna," he told GPOne.com.

But costs continue to be an important factor in Suzuki's MotoGP program. And costs mean that Suzuki is unlikely to be fielding extra bikes in the short term. "I can't see more than two Suzukis on the grid in the future. But the long term could be different, of course."

As for the cost-cutting measures put forward by the MSMA, Suzuki does not believe that all of the proposals have merit. Testing, especially, is a problem. "Think of the Monday tests after a Grand Prix, for example. These are the cheapest solution for development, but the proposals want to remove them. We'll adapt, if necessary, but having only two bikes on the grid means that we will suffer more than the others."

And there was bad news for Vito Ippolito's proposals for production racing motorcycles, as in the 80s and 90s, when the grid was filled with RG500s and YZ500s. Asked about the period, when bikes were sold, rather than leased, Sahara was forthright: "Unfortunately, that was in the past. It's impossible to consider selling the current MotoGP bikes."

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Let's just say (and hope) that Capirossi's and Vermeulen's success at Sepang this week is not just a fluke and that they are poised to have good seasons.  This means they win more prize money.  This means potential sponsors (like energy drink companies) start coveting a spot on the fairings of the plain-sided bikes.  Were the trend to continue, additional bikes on the grid begin to pay for themselves.  Perhaps, the thread-bare decision to keep racing was inspired by someone's exotic belief that the new bike contained something special and should not be abandoned.

If Edwards' times this week are indicative of the season he will have, then one should expect Herve Poncharal's phone to start ringing, as well.  And Suzuki should be paying close attention.

The only way I can see Ippolito's production racing motorcycle idea working is if the rules for MotoGP were changed down the road, so that they were more inline with their upcoming Moto2 class, with engines based off of streetbikes and/or with a lot of the advanced electronics and other ultra-expensive stuff on the bikes reduced. Perhaps then, the bikes might become affordable to potential customers, and selling them may actually be a viable option.

honda used to sell a v-twin 500 production racer, and the all-japan premier class was a 500cc GP class. why can't it be done? is it out of the realm of possibility to make a "production" 800 engine available for private teams?

Because the manufacturers don't want to, because they're afraid of losing their technology. Maybe in 5 years, once the technology has levelled off, but not now. 


One reason is that they cost way too much $$$. I don't have any numbers, but if they were anywhere near affordable, MotoGP probably wouldn't be in the mess it's in right now. The 500cc V-twin NSR Honda produced was surely dirt-cheap (relatively speaking) in comparison to the current crop of 800cc racers, or even the 990cc bikes for that matter.

The line in this article that caught my interest was the statement by Sahara that "there were no contractual problems with Dorna". Carmelo Ezpeleta has made public statements that these Dorna-manufacturer contracts require the participation of the manufacturer and that he would take Kawasaki to court if they do not show up on the grid. I am beginning to wonder about these contracts. Ezpeleta's threat seems more bravado than substance.

The other comment that interested (or I should say pleased) me was Sahara's explanation - "Why did we choose to stay? Because Hamamatsu is convinced that competition is in our DNA, and is important for our image. In the end, the final word was for our President, Osamu Suzuki." This is the type of backbone I want to see more of. Racing makes a better breed and has a positive effect on everything from design to manufacturing to sales. Many of my co-workers believe this, but leadership just wants to sponsor a team - put their name on the side of the bike but do not actually have employees working on it. Farming it out is easier financially, especially if you want to stop that sponsorship at any given moment.

I originally read the statement the same way: that they weren't bound by any contracts requiring them to stay. After rereading it, it seems it could be read to mean that they never got to a point of heated discussions with DOrna; that they decided to remain before contracts came into it.