Popular Australian rider Ant West is to retire from motorcycle racing. The popular Australian made the announcement on his personal Facebook page, citing the failure to raise sufficient sponsorship to be able to pay for a ride for 2012. West was signed up to ride an Aprilia CRT machine for the Speed Master team in MotoGP in 2012, but was unable to find the 250,000 euros that the team had demanded he bring to the ride.
West posted on his Facebook page that he had attempted to sell his car, his motocross bike and his house in Switzerland to help fund the Speed Master ride, and had even offered his house as collateral. That had not been sufficient to save his ride, however. The Australian faces similar problems racing elsewhere, as all the other teams are demanding that West bring money to a ride, and West cannot afford to do that.
Ant West is another rider in a long list who are having problems finding sponsorship to pay for rides. In recent weeks, former 125cc Grand Prix winner Sergio Gadea has announced that he has been unable to find the money to race in 2012, and former BQR Moto2 rider Yonny Hernandez has also failed to find the money to race with the same team in MotoGP aboard the team's FTR Kawasaki CRT bike. Even former MotoGP winner Chris Vermeulen has found it impossible to find a ride, although a couple of years struggling with injury has worked against the Australian. A glance down the entry lists of several of the World Championship classes reveals a number of riders who appear to be selected for their ability to pay over their speed on the track, though basic entry requirements remain in place to prevent standards from slipping too low, and the 107% qualification rule remains set in stone.
West's inability to pay is likely to be seized upon by opponents of the CRT rules as a sign that they have failed. However, even if both West and Hernandez are forced to withdraw without replacements, the 2012 MotoGP grid will still be at 19, two more than in 2011. With the number of factory prototypes (factory bikes plus satellite machines) at a historic low of just 12 bikes, CRT is still the only guarantee of having sufficient bikes on the grid to organize a racing series worthy of the title World Championship.
One suggestion that has been made by some paddock insiders is that Dorna step up and bear some of the cost during this transitional period. For half a million euros, Dorna could ensure that the MotoGP grid remains at a healthy-looking 21 strong. The fear of setting such a precedent may be what is preventing them from doing so.