Rumors concerning the future of Yamaha's World Supersport team have been running rampant for a while, with speculation that the team could be handed over to Stiggy Racing circulating in the motorcycle racing press. Today, however, MotoMatters.com has received confirmation that Yamaha is indeed to withdraw from World Supersport from next season and the team is to be disbanded.
Sources have revealed to MotoMatters.com that Yamaha Motor Europe has decided to cease running the team due to the severe financial situation that Yamaha finds itself in as a result of the global economic crisis. Yamaha is expected to post losses of 182 billion yen this year, with turnover declining by over 30% from 2008, and all expenses are being examined rigorously. World Supersport, it seems, does not justify the expense that YME invests in it, despite the popularity of the 600cc category among road riders.
Sadly for the current team members, most of them will have their contracts terminated at the end of the season. No one is exempt from the attrition at Yamaha: Even former racer, long-time racing consultant and team manager Wilco Zeelenberg is likely to be out of a job, though according to our sources, his position is currently "under consideration." Only one member of the team is certain to be retained to help develop and maintain the engines.
The reason that engine tuning and maintenance will continue is down to Yamaha's plans for the class. Yamaha is currently examining plans to supply bikes to "a privately owned Supersport team," assisting solely with engine development, while the rest of the running of the team - riders, team personnel, transport, etc - are funded by the external team themselves. Though our sources mentioned no names, the unnamed external team is almost certain to be Stiggy Racing, who fielded Ant West and Gianluca Vizziello this year on Hondas. Stiggy is known to be very unhappy with the level of support they received from Honda this season, and a position as the sole recipient of factory Yamahas would be just the kind of move that the team is looking for.
Yamaha's withdrawal from the World Supersport series is both tragic and ironic, coming as it does on the eve of their first World Supersport title for 9 years, since Jorg Teuchert won back in 2000. Cal Crutchlow has just about demolished the opposition this season, stepping up from the British Superbike championship, the only resistance coming from Parkalgar Honda's Eugene Laverty. Crutchlow is certain to leave the class next season, but whether his future lies in World Superbikes or the brand new Moto2 class is as yet unknown. Without a champion running a #1 plate, the final reason to continue in the class disappears.