Starting a brand new team with a brand new bike is hard at the best of times, but to do so in the midst of the biggest economic slowdown the world has seen for 80 years is brave beyond reason. There was a good deal of interest when former Suzuki team boss Garry Taylor presented the new Maxtra Racing project back at the Shanghai Grand Prix in May of last year, before the crisis struck, and that interest has continued as the project has progressed.
But according to Dutch website Racesport.nl, trouble has hit the team, and in a stroke of bitter irony, it is not even related to the global financial crisis. First of all, the team is likely to have to change its name, after a French company has laid claim to use of the name Maxtra. Since the rumors emerged on Racesport, the Maxtra Racing website has been inaccessible, any attempts to access it requiring a username and password. The team is likely to switch to using the name of the Chinese motorcycle company funding the team, Haojue, dropping the disputed Maxtra moniker. But a rebranding exercise is never cheap, and everything, from team shirts to race trucks to letterheads will have to be reprinted, repainted or recycled.
Worse news comes from the engineering department, however. Jan Witteveen, the brilliant Dutch engineer responsible for designing championship-winning engines for Aprilia, is rumored to have withdrawn from the Maxtra project, reportedly due to his unhappiness at the performance of the bike. Fear that his reputation could be tarnished by its lack of pace is believed to be the motivating factor for pulling out.
Just where all this leaves the new team remains to be seen, but they should still have sufficient funds to field both British rookie Matt Hoyle and the more experienced Michael Ranseder.