After Livio Suppo's shock departure from the Marlboro Ducati team, details of his new role at HRC are emerging which cast a new light on how the Italian came to leave Ducati. Suppo's departure had caused speculation of problems inside the team over Casey Stoner's absence, but it is now emerging that the switch was very much down to Suppo, rather than Ducati.
Suppo has been hired by HRC to fulfill the role of Marketing Director, where his duties will be focused on raising money for Honda's MotoGP effort. Suppo is widely credited with being a key player in finding sponsors for Ducati, as a result of which Ducati's is the only MotoGP program to be fully covered by sponsorship cash. While Yamaha, Honda and especially Suzuki still pay a significant part of their MotoGP budgets out of their own pockets, Ducati funds almost its entire racing program from the money it receives from its sponsors.
Honda will be keen for Suppo to perform the same task for them as he did for Ducati. If Suppo can raise the kind of money for Honda he has done for Ducati, then the Japanese factory will have more budget to spend on its MotoGP team. And with Honda widely expected to be the most aggressive party once bidding starts for riders in the middle of 2010, that money will give them more leverage to chase Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo to slot in alongside Dani Pedrosa. Given the strength of Honda's pursuit of Suppo, the likelihood of the decision being a result of any displeasure on Ducati's side is almost zero. After the press conference at Valencia, Casey Stoner again denied any rift with Suppo, telling reporters that he had known about the switch for a few weeks.
With Suppo focusing on finding sponsorship, the management of the team will remain as it is. Kazuhiko Yamano remains in place as team manager, and will continue to be responsible for the day-to-day running of the team. Meanwhile, Honda have also found a replacement for Pete Benson, Andrea Dovizioso's crew chief. Ramon Aurin, currently Dovi's data engineer, will step up to take over the role from Benson.