With Honda confirming that they will be running a three-man factory team next season, there are only a couple of loose ends left to tie up. The most significant - and the most depressing - is that Suzuki has finally announced that they will only be fielding a single MotoGP bike for 2011, with Alvaro Bautista at the helm.
The move was another one of the 2011 MotoGP season's many, many open secrets, and a move that Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has been trying to fend off since it was first mooted. Dorna believes that Suzuki has an obligation under the terms of the contract it has with the Japanese manufacturer to supply a minimum of two bikes to the MotoGP grid. Suzuki believes it only has a commitment to supply a presence on the grid, and that a single bike complies with its obligation under the contract. Ezpeleta met with Suzuki after the Motegi round of MotoGP in Japan, but failed to come to an agreement. This matter is likely to end up in the courts at some point, but that won't help get any bikes on the grid for 2011.
The semi-withdrawal of Suzuki in MotoGP leaves only one more seat left open for 2011, the second RC212V at Gresini Honda. It seems almost inevitable that Hiroshi Aoyama will be put on that bike, much against the wishes of the Gresini team. Fausto Gresini is rumored to be holding out for more money from Dorna to keep the Japanese rider on the grid.
Below is the press release issued by Suzuki Motor Corporation on the reduction of their MotoGP program:
SUZUKI MOTOGP ACTIVITY ANNOUNCEMENT 8/11/2010
Team Suzuki Press Office - November 8.
Suzuki Motor Corporation wishes to thank all customers and race fans who supported the Suzuki MotoGP Team in 2010.
With the experience and knowledge gained in 2010 the Suzuki MotoGP Team will move forward with great passion and effort in search of glory in 2011.
The Suzuki MotoGP Team will participate in 2011 with a single rider, Alvaro Bautista. Alvaro joined the team in 2010 and made good progress with GSV-R, the Suzuki Grand Prix machine, improving his results throughout the season.
Suzuki will continue to make the best use of the short time to the start of the 2011 MotoGP season to develop the GSV-R machine for this, the pinnacle class of motorcycle racing, and we thank all Suzuki customers and race fans for their continued support.
Suzuki Motor Corporation
November, 8th 2010