Just as the global financial crisis appears to be approaching its nadir, it has claimed another victim in motorcycle racing. As we reported yesterday, the Hoegee Suzuki World Supersport team has withdrawn from the World Supersport Championship with immediate effect. The team has simply run out of money, and the potential sponsors which the team had been talking to had been unable to provide the funding which the team needed to continue for the rest of the season.
Marc Hoegee, team owner, manager, and the driving force behind preparing the race bikes, said in a press release: "I started this great adventure in 2005, and togethe with the whole team and everyone involved, we've had a chance to demonstrate just what we are capable of in a very short time. Despite all our efforts, we have not been able to find new sponsors fast enough to be able to continue both responsibly and competitively. That competitiveness is very important to me. The fact that we have to stop now really breaks my heart. Everyone has invested a huge amount of energy into this project, but this is reality and we just have to accept it. I'd like to thank the riders and the other team members for the fantastic effort they have shown again this season. We really fought for this, but the sponsorship climate is extremely unfavorable - and not just in racing. I would also like to thank all of our sponsors and everyone who has supported us over the years."
The team had been remarkably competitive at the end of last year, Barry Veneman getting his first podium at Magny-Cours, and regularly scoring top 6 finishes. He ended up 8th in the championship, the best result for a Suzuki rider since 2003. The team's withdrawal also leaves Suzuki without an entry in the World Supersport Championship, in the commercially crucial 600cc sport bike segment.
It seems improbable that Suzuki can afford to let this situation stand for long - with all of their rivals fielding competitive machinery in the class, with the sole exception of Ducati, who do not have an eligible machine - but the factory simply does not have the money to fund participation in every single international class. Even Suzuki's continued existence in MotoGP is by no means certain, and may depend in part on their success in signing Alvaro Bautista, and securing the publicity the up-and-coming Spanish star will bring with him.
Even if Suzuki did decide to continue in the class, their options would be limited. Dutch Suzuki importer Nimag supported the Hoegee Suzuki effort for the past few years, and before that, Francis Batta's Alstare team fielded Suzukis in Supersport. But Alstare is having enough trouble just funding its Superbike operation, without finding the extra cash to develop and race GSX-R600s alongside their GSX-R1000 Superbikes.
The Hoegee team did express the hope that they could be back next year. The press release stated that although sponsorship talks had failed for this year, they offered some interesting options for 2010. The question is, will the team members and their combined experience still be available come next season?