The Estoril MotoGP round saw the long-awaited announcement of the list of teams whose entries for Moto2 have been accepted. Among the expected candidates was a name which raised one or two eyebrows in the press room: The Hayate team, formerly the factory Kawasaki team, had been granted not one but two entries for the Moto2 class next season.
Despite the fact that the rationale for the Moto2 class is to make racing affordable again, the expense of running two riders in the class alongside a MotoGP entry would seem to be the Hayate team extending themselves beyond their current means. The team has gone almost entirely unsponsored, apart from the funds provided by Dorna and Kawasaki as part of the agreement to allow Kawasaki to leave the series before the end of their contract, which was due to expire at the end of 2011. The chances of Hayate procuring the necessary 5-6 million euros in sponsorship the team would require to run a MotoGP team next season, in addition to the extra million or so euros a two-rider Moto2 team would cost, seem fairly remote.
But the lack of potential sponsors isn't the only sign that Hayate are moving away from continuing in MotoGP. Initially, the team had planned to run a leased Yamaha engine in a modified version of the Hayate chassis, but a number of factors have made that an unlikely option. The first problem - and the most disappointing one, for both Hayate and the rest of the paddock - is the question of cost. Yamaha are believed to be the only factory so far to have shown any enthusiasm for the plan to lease just engines to satellite teams, but even they are asking something in the region of 750,000 euros a season (about 65% of the cost of an entire bike), a sum which is well above what the satellite teams and Dorna had been hoping for.
The second problem is the loss of some of the figures who would have been key to the project. Hidden among the details of Chris Vermeulen's announcement that he was joining Kawasaki in World Superbikes was the level of factory support for Paul Bird's team. The development effort - which will center around a radically changed bike to be introduced in 2011, and rumored to feature a big-bang firing order - is to be led by Ichiro Yoda, the man who led the Hayate effort in 2009, having led both the Kawasaki and Yamaha MotoGP efforts previously. If Hayate were to try and shoehorn a Yamaha engine into the Kawasaki chassis they used last year, not having Ichiro Yoda on board - the man who laid the basis for Yamaha's engine and designed Kawasaki's chassis - would be a huge handicap.
Yoda isn't the only crew member to go missing, though. At least one other member of the Hayate team is making the switch to Kawasaki's World Superbike project along with the Japanese engineering genius, and one or two more could well follow.
So it seems that Hayate team boss Andrea Dosoli has decided to focus his efforts in a class where he can be much more competitive for a great deal less money. Trying to get a Yamaha engine to work in a Kawasaki frame was not impossible, but would have required a good deal of work and would have needed a long lead time before the project became competitive. Electing to buy a chassis from Moriwaki or Suter and using the standard Honda engine is a much easier route to running at the front. The chances of seeing a Hayate in MotoGP again next season look to be very slim indeed.