After another shocker of a season in 2008, and under financial pressure after the global economic crisis, Mirror Finish it seems Kawasaki have decided its not worth $30 million to prove that the green bike is the slowest on the grid. An announcement is expected within a week that the Kawasaki MotoGP team will not show up on the grid for 2009.
Two big rule changes in the last decade (the move to the 990cc and then 800cc four-strokes) have made the prototype class incredibly expensive for factories to participate in, as well as completely decimating non-factory participation. Worse still, the difference between fielding a bike and getting something competitive on the grid is enormous – Randy Mamola mused to us in September of how Kawasaki and Fiat Yamaha both had their crankcases manufactured at the same plant – but Rossis unit cost ten times as much as the Kwaka solution.
Thats prototype racing in the world of high finance, you might say – but then, as we pointed out earlier, the racing in the last two seasons of MotoGP has been the least entertaining in a decade, computer-controlled, razor sharp missiles that hit apex after apex and nail identical lap times until the bikes come home nicely spaced out in order of whose stock lap time was faster. The Kawasaki team have had a couple of rain podiums in recent years but in the dry theyre as much as a second or two off the pace.
This caps off a disaster year for Marco Melandri, who must have thought a Japanese bike was a gift from the gods after failing so comprehensively to control the Ducati. But now hes gone from a winning bike to a losing bike to no bike at all. Likewise John Hopkins, who jumped ship just as things started looking hopeful at Suzuki to find himself on a woefully inadequate Kawasaki. And to think Kawasaki were talking about running a third team towards the end of last year.
At the moment, the news is coming only out of race team sources according to Roadracing World – who have spoken to Hopkins. I havent heard anything official. I havent been told anything official, and I havent been sent anything official so far, he said. The public announcement is expected January 6.
So its looking like a 17-bike grid in GP 2009, whereas things are looking much healthier (and more competitive) in WSBK. Can it be any coincidence that Valentino Rossi and Marco Simoncelli are both rumoured to be jumping into SBK for a race or two in 2009?