Aspar Team Loses Drive Energy Drink Sponsorship On Day Before Season Opener

It has been a tough day for sponsorship news in the MotoGP paddock. After news earlier of LCR Honda's title sponsor CWM being subject of a fraud investigation, the Aspar Honda team have lost their title sponsor, Drive M7. The Malaysian energy drink firm have withdrawn their sponsorship of the team on the day before the 2015 season was due to start.

According to German language publication Speedweek, the Drive M7 management told team owner Jorge Martinez about the decision on Tuesday night. The decision was a surprise, as it had been expected that the deal would continue in 2015, with both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty riding in Drive M7 testing colors during preseason testing.

No reasons for the withdrawal have been given, but the checkered history of energy drinks suggest that the smaller brands find it hard to justify the major investment which investment in top-level racing requires. The Gresini Honda team suffered a similar fate last year, when sponsor Go&Fun failed to pay sponsorship owed and withdrew in the middle of the season. There is a long list of brands which have come and go, including Dark Dog, Grizzly, Power Horse, and Troy Corser's personal sponsor, Pussy. 

Drive M7's withdrawal could pose a larger problem for Aspar than the issues facing the LCR team. Though the cost of leasing the Open class Honda RC213V-RS is lower than the factory RC213V, LCR is believed to have taken a large part of its sponsorship as a down payment, ensuring that the team still has funds. Aspar now faces the loss of a major part of their budget. Jorge Martinez has very strong connections to the business community in Valencia, but with several investigations ongoing into corruption related to the F1 race at Valencia, including into former business associates of Martinez, those potential sources of sponsorship are drying up.

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Comments

Luccio has always been a canny operator: who remembers DePuniet's Playboy RCV? Good to see they had some down payment. Keeps the wages paid until a new sponsor comes in.

Different story over at Aspar though. You'd think American Honda might prove able to back Hayden. Tough one for Laverty, particularly as he identifies as Irish rather than British, and Guinness isn't a natural fit for bike racing! Not getting into Irish politics, just think it would make it harder for him.

Someone agrees. Those have to be the two ugliest bikes in recent memory

Especially for Nicky and Eugene. What will become of these guys? They have worked hard for their rides and don't have anywhere to go if the team can't race. I wish American companies could bring themselves to sponsor the ONLY American rider in the paddock. He's not at the pointy end, but he's popular, well liked, and I think would still surprise a lot of people on the right motorcycle.

David, do you happen to know what Dorna plans to do about this, if anything? Is it beyond their control? Would they be able to help Martinez find last minute sponsorship?

Further, what does this ultimately mean for Aspar for this season? Would they be reduced to fielding one bike, or what would likely be on the chopping block? People just start getting fired and they don't race?

Terrible, terrible news.

Motorcycle racing has the same problems as car racing, the sport has become to expensive.
I couldn't and can't understand why motorcycle racing has to mirror itself to formula 1 ...........
I really think that it doesn't take much time to see all these (once) beautiful motorsports fade away because no one can any longer affort to compete at these rediculous costs, not interresting for sponsors because all these sports are hidden behind all sorts of decoders :-(
How I would love to see the return of the old days with four racing classes with a clear set of rules and with a minimum off influence of factorys to keep the racing as cheap as possible .....

Racing in general has not adapted their rules to the loss of tobacco sponsorship. If they really want to reduce the financial barrier to entry, they should start with a much smaller and much simpler rule book.

produce the 21st century versions of the TZ 250, TZ350, TZ 500, TZ 750 , RG 500 et al.

The riders would have to learn to read plugs, instead of their f*****g social media !

The big question is: how do you keep Honda's money out of it? Even if you made the rules simpler (which I'm not against) the Japanese factories would still pour tens of millions on dollars into their team each year, making it very hard for anyone else to compete.

The only way to keep costs low is to go the stock racing route - and motogp should never be a stock class.

Are you familiar with the Law of Diminishing Returns? Honda spending whatever they please is not the problem. The problem barrier to entry for the smaller teams. What's preventing a small team, like Kenny Roberts old outfit, from sticking a big Kawasaki H2R supercharged engine and running custom rubber from Dunlop or whomever else? Answer: the stupid rules.

A spec series is another way to keep costs down, see Moto2. NASCAR is the only big time racing series that has the correct model: racing is entertainment, and the only way to survive and make any money is to keep costs down. It's a spec series, and they don't pretend to be otherwise.

Is this really needed?? I think it was far better when the 2 strokes were the GP classes, then you can still say it is "prototype" racing and there is a very clear difference between GP and WSBK racing.
If Honda could not or would not participate in this championship they are free to leave. The main problem about costs is the current electronics and al kinds of lightweigt materials, ban those things and also such parts as carbon disc brakes and the costs will come down in my opinion.

There must've been something in that sponsorship deal that says "if you guys bail, you still owe us this much money", no?

I'm sure the deal does say that...question is whether they actually have any money left to give...these companies fold up and leave a blood trail of unpaid bills behind them, and then the execs go and start another company with a "clean slate". "Chase me in court!"

I am drawing here on my experience as a teacher of politics and bit of economics. The British capitalists were an astute lot who believed that they could not prosper if all money got concentrated in only a few hands and therefore made the King pass laws which came to be called the "Poor Laws". This was in the 16th century and the main idea behind it was to ensure that people are not reduced to such poverty that they fall out of the buying potential of various commodities. The poor laws saw British capitalism survive, thrive and flourish. If Honda is the one which is driving costs upwards then it means that it is following "oriental despotism" a reason cited for most Asian countries falling prey to colonialism. But Japan was the one exception, so it is indeed ironic that Honda has become puerile in its pursuit of victory. Cannot understand how Honda will achieve anything if the series is closed down due to the non-existence of other teams.

As in F1, in MotoGP too it is the teams at the back that make the teams at the front look good. If you deny them an opportunity to be in the fray, leave alone compete with the front runners, that is akin to chopping off the branch of the tree on which you are sitting. Hope some sense prevails on whoever it is that is responsible for this sorry state of affairs.

David did an article on here a while back which compared the sponsorship situation to that of the tobacco days, only now it's energy drinks. Not all the companies can keep up, and what is the sponsorship value to an Asian energy drink company to having an American and an Irishman riding bikes that aren't running anywhere near the front? The Drive M7 website still shows Aoyama as one of their athletes - not Laverty.

For any business looking to sponsor MotoGP, what do they get out of backing a team? If they're not running at the front, do they get sufficient business to business opportunities at the tracks themselves? Not with the current Eurocentric nature of the series perhaps...

I live in London and have travelled quite a bit in Europe - I've never seen a can of Drive M7 in a shop.