The vicious economic climate is hurting MotoGP just like it is hurting Formula 1. The world’s premier bike racing series has already lost one of its lower-ranking teams to corporate belt-tightening and is currently looking into cost-cutting measures that might prevent the grid shrinking further.
Kawasaki, which had been due to run American John Hopkins and Italian Marco Melandri in 2009, has shut down its MotoGP project having decided to ‘promptly take countermeasures’ to deal with the ‘quickly changing business environment’. Those of a cynical persuasion might suggest the company’s exit has more to do with its Ninja ZX-RR scoring just four podium finishes since Kawasaki joined MotoGP in 2002.
Series rights-holder Dorna is working to keep the Ninjas on the grid. British company Ilmor, which made a brief but troubled entry into MotoGP three years ago, has expressed an interest in running the bikes.
Dorna is also pushing through measures to cut costs and improve MotoGP: testing and practice are being reduced and riders will be allowed only one bike from 2010, which should put more machines on the grid. However, Dorna has dismissed suggestions that MotoGP be merged with the cheaper World Superbike series.