Latest MotoGP News

No Kawasakis On The Grid In '09, Says Kawasaki

In the turbulent times which MotoGP is passing through, the first casualty is truth. Throughout the Kawasaki saga, rumors persisted  in the Italian press that any deal which kept Kawasaki bikes on the grid would leave them in the hands of Jorge Martinez, head of the Aspar team.

After Kawasaki announced its official withdrawal from MotoGP, speculation continued that Aspar would get the Kawasaki bikes, despite that deal looking much further from reality. Now, the Dutch website Motorfreaks.nl is reporting that Kawasaki have categorically denied the rumors that Aspar would field the former factory Kawasakis in a private team structure. What's more, Kawasaki say that there will be no Kawasakis at all in MotoGP in 2009.

"As soon as the economic situation improves, we definitely intend to return to the MotoGP arena, but for next season, there will be no Kawasakis in MotoGP. Consequently, there's no truth in the rumors that Martinez would be running our bikes," Kawasaki told Motorfreaks.

As for the fine for breach of contract which Kawasaki will incur by pulling out before their contract ends in 2011, the Akashi factory is still in talks with Dorna. "This won't affect our decision to withdraw from MotoGP, however," Kawasaki said.

 

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Official: Kawasaki Out - But Bikes To Remain?

After weeks of speculation, finally an official announcement has been made. Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced that it was officially pulling out of MotoGP. All the rumors and hopes of Dorna somehow being able to put together a deal have come to nothing: the economic situation is too bleak, with no hope of relief in the immediate future, for Kawasaki to be able to justify the necessary investment.

But for those with a penchant for exegesis, the news is not quite as dark as it may seem. The official statement (shown below) says that Kawasaki will "suspend its factory MotoGP racing activities from 2009." The two key words there are "suspend" and "factory".

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Kawasaki Back In, Announcement Soon

News is starting to filter out of Akashi, Japan, by way of Italy, that Kawasaki will not after all be pulling out of MotoGP. After long negotiation with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, the Japanese manufacturer has rolled back its decision to withdraw from the premier class, probably after Ezpeleta spelled out the financial consequences of withdrawal.

The exact details are as yet unknown, but it looks like Jorge Martinez will be given the Kawasaki team to run, while Michael Bartholemy will remain team manager. At least, that's what GPOne.com says, the Italian news site Mediaset believes that Martinez will be given the team to run as he seems fit. Martinez had earlier told La Gazzetta dello Sport that he was only interested if he could have a three year contract to run the team.

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Spies Looking At MotoGP For 2010

Last season, Ben Spies made no secret of his desire to get into MotoGP. He and his manager, Doug Gonda, spent a long time trying to find the promising young American a ride, but one by one, Spies' options disappeared, leaving Spies to look to World Superbikes to make an impact on the global stage.

So far - even though it's only testing - that's exactly what Spies has done, and the Texan is already setting his sights higher. In an interview with Motorcycle News, Spies confirmed that Yamaha are also interested in fielding him in MotoGP if a seat becomes available.

Whether those seats will be open in 2010 is a question. Dorna's keenness to keep a British rider in the series means James Toseland is likely to keep his ride for 2010. Which leaves only Colin Edwards. Edwards is a veteran with very close ties to Yamaha, and helps Yamaha sell a lot of bikes in the US, but the Texas Tornado is approaching the age where he could be thinking of retiring.

A swap between Edwards and Spies is possible in 2010, but Spies is likely to have to win the World Superbike title at his first attempt if he is to go straight to MotoGP next season. Given the stiff competition in World Superbikes, that's not going to be easy. And given the worries about the future of MotoGP, Spies may well change his mind as the season progresses.

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Hopkins Not Interested In AMA

While the future of Kawasaki in MotoGP remains uncertain, speculation has been rife about the likely fates of their two contracted riders, John Hopkins and Marco Melandri. Many rumors have been spread about Melandri, but fewer have been heard about John Hopkins, despite the fact that the American rider is the heir apparent of the Monster Millions, the substantial amount of money the energy drinks maker contributes to Kawasaki's MotoGP team.

It was exactly that money which gave rise to speculation that John Hopkins was to be placed in Kawasaki USA's AMA Superbike team, replacing Jamie Hacking, whose contract has still not been signed by Kawasaki. Monster Energy is the title sponsor of the AMA Superbike team, and Kawasaki will have to pay Hopkins anyway, so the logical move would be to put the two together.

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Latest From Japan: Kawasaki Reconsidering Decision

While MotoGP fans around the world are on tenterhooks for news of Kawasaki, the first bits and pieces of news are dribbling out of the MSMA meeting currently being held in Japan. The Italian news sites are on top of the case - possibly thanks to the Italian representation on the MSMA - and the big news is that Kawasaki is currently reconsidering its withdrawal, news of which had leaked shortly after Christmas.

The pressure applied by Dorna appears to have worked, helped along perhaps by the fact that any withdrawal would have cost at least 20 million euros, including fines and money already spent on bikes and rider salaries, according to GPOne.com. Team boss Michael Bartholemy is apparently on his way to Japan to discuss the options with Kawasaki.

The meeting of the manufacturers involved in MotoGP discussed several proposals for cutting costs in MotoGP, including restricting testing even further, and extending engine life, which is put unofficially at around 300km. These would be the only changes possible for the 2009 season, as the teams already have too much invested in their 2009 bikes to make dramatic changes.

For 2010, more radical steps could be taken. First item on the agenda would be a ban on carbon brakes, a move which several team bosses, including Fausto Gresini and Lucio Cecchinello, have called for, as well as more drastic extensions of engine life, with engines to last multiple grand prix weeknds, and yet more restrictions on testing.

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Kawasaki Speak: "No Decision Yet"

Various sources are reporting that Kawasaki have finally made an official announcement, but the announcement is that there's nothing to tell at the moment.

The news emanating from the Japanese news agency Kyodo is that Kawasaki have admitted that they are considering pulling out of MotoGP, but that no decision has yet been taken. "We are in contact with the parties concerned to decide our future course of action," Kawasaki is quoted as saying by the press agencies.

The "parties concerned" almost certainly include the riders and the team, but Jorge Martinez of the Aspar team is likely also to be one of the participants in the conversation, as well as MotoGP rights holders Dorna. No news yet of the MSMA meeting supposed to have been held today, which was also meant to discuss the situation.

More news as and when we receive it.

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Wildest Kawasaki Rumor Yet: Hopper To Return To AMA?

With still no news about Kawasaki's withdrawal from MotoGP coming out of Japan, rumor feeding frenzy continues. The latest, and perhaps least likely, rumor is that John Hopkins has been approached by Kawasaki USA to take the place of Jamie Hacking aboard the Kawasaki Superbike entry in AMA.

The rumor, published by Italian site GPOne.com, is that Hacking will be pushed aside because his salary demands were too high. With the Kawasaki Superbike team having Monster Energy as a title sponsor, and Hopkins being so closely linked to Monster, the move would seem to be an obvious one.

Yet there are good reasons to doubt this speculation. Firstly, and most obviously, is that if Hacking is being dropped because he wanted too much money, how will Kawasaki USA justify the 4 million dollars which Hopper's salary is believed to be? And secondly, though Kawasaki has a title sponsor, bikes and riders, they have still to confirm that they will be competing in the AMA Superbike series next year. Kawasaki, along with Honda and Suzuki, were the most vociferous opponents of the rule changes and class reorganization proposed by the DMG, who bought the rights to the American domestic series. Kawasaki was also a very prominent absentee at the recent Daytona tire test, traditionally the kick-off to the AMA pre-season.

The MSMA is scheduled to meet with Dorna on Wednesday in Japan. After that meeting, the situation around Kawasaki is likely be clarified, and some of this speculation can be consigned to the circular storage facility, where it belongs.

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Kawasaki Update: Nothing From Japan, But Plenty From Europe

Today - Monday, January 5th - was the day we had been expecting the official announcement from Kawasaki of their withdrawal from MotoGP, but so far, nothing has been heard from Akashi in Japan. No news is not necessarily good news though. What it does mean is that Kawasaki have probably come under a lot of pressure from both Dorna and the management of their MotoGP team to either reconsider their decision, or find a way to allow the team to continue in a drastically revised form.

But while it's been quiet in Japan, news has once again been filtering in from around Europe about the possibilities created by Kawasaki's imminent withdrawal. The main attention focuses on Jorge Martinez Aspar, who runs the Aspar team in 125s and 250s, and whose earlier attempt to form a one-man Kawasaki satellite team foundered on the choice of riders. Martinez has spoken to the Spanish magazine Motociclismo about his attempts to take over the Kawasaki team, should the Japanese manufacturer decide to go ahead.

"At the moment, it's all up in the air," Martinez told Motociclismo. "I spoke to Dorna about it, and we won't know anything for certain until Carmelo [Ezpeleta] returns from the meeting with the MSMA in Japan."

Martinez also made it clear that he wouldn't take on the project at any price. "For me, the most important thing is a Spanish rider, but I also need some guarantees from Kawasaki about the bikes for 2009, such as the development of the bike, the supply of parts, and the maintenance." He also said that the speed with which all this had happened meant there were still a few question marks over the viability of the project. He told Motociclismo he expected that it would be "ten or twelve days" before he knew anything for certain.

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Aspar Could Just Run One Kawasaki - And Without Hopkins?

Though Kawasaki is likely to announce its withdrawal from MotoGP officially on Monday, there's still reason to believe that there will be Kawasakis on the grid in 2009. As we reported earlier, Dorna has spent the last few days trying to convince both Kawasaki and Jorge "Aspar" Martinez to take over the Kawasaki team, and keep the bikes on the grid.

Martinez has made no secret of his desire to run a MotoGP team. The Valencian has been incredibly successful in both 125s and 250s, and wants to extend that success into the premier class. This came very close to happening towards the end of last season, when a deal between Kawasaki and Aspar finally foundered on a difference over riders, Kawasaki insisting on Shinya Nakano, Martinez saying his Spanish sponsors demanded a Spanish rider.

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Melandri: Team Scot, Gresini, Or Something In Between?

Since news of Kawasaki's imminent withdrawal from MotoGP hit the internet, speculation has positively boiled over about the future of the two riders under contract to Team Green, John Hopkins and Marco Melandri. Hopkins' future is thought to be relatively secure, as the Monster Energy sponsorship money which helped fund the team is firmly tied to the American, and will go wherever Hopkins goes.

Melandri, though, is another matter altogether. Although highly popular, he doesn't have a huge sponsorship deal tied directly to him personally which would ease his way into another team. However, his popularity in Italy and beyond, as well as his previous success (Melandri's manager Alberto Vergani likes to point out that Melandri has 5 MotoGP victories to Dani Pedrosa's 6) mean that he is a popular target for the Italian satellite teams.

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Pramac Manager Wants Satellite Team Association

It seemed like just a footnote to another story, but when Paolo Campinoti spoke to GPOne.com about the future of Niccolo Canepa, he had a very interesting suggestion to make. For the manager of the Pramac Ducati team told GPOne.com that he was interested in setting up a separate association for the satellite teams. "It's true, I wanted an assocation for the satellite teams. My team (Pramac), Fausto Gresini, Herve Poncharal and Lucio Cecchinello put on seven bikes, nearly half the grid. It would be a good thing for our ideas to be heard. I talked to those directly involved about it, but it came to nothing. In the end, there's IRTA for this kind of thing."

IRTA - the International Road Racing Teams Association - represents all of the teams, riders and service companies present in MotoGP. Together with the MSMA, they represent the teams and manufacturers in the Grand Prix Commission, along with Dorna as organizers of the series, and the FIM, as the federation overseeing all motorcycle racing. But the MSMA also has a profound influence over IRTA: after all, all of the factory teams run by the members of the MSMA also have a vote in the IRTA, giving them the power to influence the vote of two of the four members of the Grand Prix Commission.

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Pramac And Pernat Deny Canepa Switch

Confusion reigns in MotoGP, and not just about the future of Kawasaki. On Wednesday, reports emerged from Spain that Niccolo Canepa would switch from the Pramac Ducati team to the Team Grupo Francisco Hernando (the Onde 2000 team), a move made necessary by Alice's withdrawal as title sponsor for the Pramac team. But today, both Carlo Pernat, Canepa's manager, and Paolo Campinoti denied that any such more had been agreed.

Pernat, who manages Loris Capirossi as well as Niccolo Canepa, was the most emphatic when asked about the rumors by the Italian press agency Mediaset: "It's a hoax," Pernat said. "Canepa is staying at Pramac. The Spanish reports saying he will be going to join the Nieto brothers are completely baseless. I spoke to (Paolo) Campinoti, the team manager, and he confirmed that Canepa will be riding with Pramac."

Pramac manager was equally firm, but his choice of words left a little more room for maneuver: "I can confirm that there will be two Ducati-Pramacs on the track next year," Campinoti told GPOne.com. "But it's true that we lost our title sponsor Alice, and we are busy looking for a replacement. This could lead to a situation where the two riders, Canepa and Kallio, race in different liveries, while remaining under contract to Pramac."

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Stoner "99% Certain" To Be Testing At Sepang

The Australian press is reporting that Casey Stoner is still not certain to take part in testing at Sepang. Stoner is recovering from a bone graft operation in late October to repair the cracked scaphoid in his left wrist, but the recovery is taking longer than Stoner had hoped for. "I'm 99 per cent certain that I will be riding at Sepang although I doubt it would be at full fitness," Stoner said.

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Could Aspar Save Kawasaki?

The official announcement of the demise of Kawasaki's MotoGP effort has not even been made yet, but already, it would seem to have a saviour. Italian sports daily Gazzetto dello Sport is reporting that since the news broke of Kawasaki's imminent withdrawal, Jorge Martinez, the man behind the Aspar team which dominates 125 and 250 racing, has been hard at working trying to take over the team from Kawasaki.

Martinez says he was contacted by Dorna a couple of days ago, and since then he has spent all his time on the phone, despite being on a family vacation. The deal which Dorna, Martinez and Kawasaki are trying to put together according to Gazzetto dello Sport would involve Martinez taking over the team at no cost to the Spanish former racer.

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