The relationship between MotoGP organizers Dorna and Suzuki has been very strained for the past few months. Rumors that Suzuki would pull out of MotoGP emerged over the summer of 2010, and after a meeting in Japan was postponed after the Motegi MotoGP round, Suzuki eventually announced they would be fielding just a single machine in 2011, with Alvaro Bautista riding it.
Since that announcement, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has made his unhappiness with Suzuki very clear, issuing veiled threats of legal action to force the Hamatsu factory to live up to the terms of their contract. Unfortunately - for Dorna at least - the terms of the contract do not appear to specify the minimum number of bikes that a factory must run in MotoGP, and Suzuki has seized upon this loophole to run just the one bike.
Dorna now appears to have accepted this situation, albeit begrudgingly. Speaking at Ducati's Wrooom! launch at the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, Carmelo Ezpeleta told the press that Dorna would be holding off on legal action to force Suzuki to honor the terms of their contract. Ezpeleta emphasized that this was merely a postponement, however, and that MotoGP's commercial rights holder could revisit their position at any time in the future, "now or in six months' time." That decision, the Dorna CEO explained, would depend on Suzuki's behavior, and their commitment to MotoGP beyond 2012. Dorna had not had direct news from Suzuki on that subject, Ezpeleta told the press, though he had been talking to representatives of the manufacturers' association, the MSMA. Legal action remained a last resort, however, only to be taken if Dorna believed it would resolve the situation.
Suzuki's reduction to just a single machine exposes the weakness of Dorna's position with respect to the manufacturers. After Kawasaki announced unilaterally that they were pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2008 season, Ezpeleta visited all of the Japanese factories, and made it clear to their senior management that such a move would be a breach of their contracts to race in MotoGP, which run until the end of the 2011 season. That series of meetings persuaded the factories to stay in MotoGP in the depths of the global financial crisis, though the strong yen and a weak Japanese economy has meant that staying is an expensive business.
Suzuki's reduction from two bikes to one in the final year of their contract with the MSMA and Dorna is stretching the limits of the permissible, though rumors persist that Suzuki will be back from 2012 with an expanded and radically revised 1000cc bike for the new rules. Carmelo Ezpeleta expects those rules to bring about a return to healthier grids, reiterating at Madonna di Campiglio that he expects 22 bikes on the grid from 2012 onwards. With Moto2 chassis builder Suter having confirmed they are building a CRT machine, and Kalex and FTR believed to be at least considering such a move, with the former actively designing a CRT bike, there is a strong chance that Ezpeleta could be proved right.