Suzuki boss speaks on MotoGP withdrawal

Published: 18 November 2011

Suzuki MotoGP boss Paul Denning has spoken of his disappointment at the Japanese factory’s decision to withdraw from MotoGP until at least the 2014 world championship campaign.

Suzuki Motor Corporation said it was temporarily suspending its involvement in MotoGP for 2012 and '13 in a statement issued earlier today.

Suzuki citied the impact of the worldwide recession for reaching a decision that had been anticipated for months.

The statement also confirmed Suzuki’s intention to return to the Grand Prix arena in 2014 with a new 1000cc GSV-R machine.

Speaking exclusively to MCN, Denning, who has been Team Manager of the British-based squad since 2006, said: “The biggest disappointment for me is the guys on the team who are so capable and have been so loyal to Suzuki and the team. The very late timing of the decision has left a large number of the guys in a difficult position for the future. I’m doing my best to help where I can in terms of looking for new opportunities and taking some of them into the Crescent Suzuki fold as well but it iis a difficult situation because you do travel, work and operate as a second family. That’s something that weighs on my shoulders a little bit heavy. And I’m obviously disappointed because I very much enjoyed running the team and pushing Suzuki to improve and do the best to compete as close to the front as we possibly could.

"But in terms of the corporate decision from Suzuki’s side, it is what it is. I disagree with it and I don’t believe it is the right strategy because at the moment I think whilst we weren’t winning, the level of competitiveness we were achieving and the great work the race department has done to improve the bike to the level it finished the season was very positive. And without being disrespectful to the ability and efforts of Alvaro (Bautista) in only his second season in MotoGP but we didn’t have Casey Stoner or Jorge Lorenzo on the bike either and yet we were very close to the front. So I think it is disappointing not to continue that development cycle and not to continue pushing the Suzuki brand forward in MotoGP because in terms of brand image were going in the right direction and Suzuki was being seen as a very respected and strong competitor with good potential for the future.

"At the end of the day though my opinion is not the one that forces the decision and I have to respect and understand that Suzuki as a big company has its own restrictions and commercial issues and it needs to consider the long-term issues and not only the short-term. They have made strong reference that they wish to be back in MotoGP and ideally by 2014. So a restructure, refocus and reinvestment and the chance to take a deep breath might give Suzuki the chance to comeback bigger and better in what will amount to be a very short period of time.”

Denning said he had fought tirelessly during the second half of the season with senior Japanese management like Shinichi Sahara to convince Suzuki to remain in MotoGP, with their withdrawal leaving just Honda, Yamaha and Ducati with a factory presence in the paddock next year.

He added: “It was really me and one or two people within Suzuki Japan who were trying to force a turnaround in a policy that was to pretty much cease the MotoGP activity from the middle of this year. It was clear that one of the strongly favoured options was to take a sabbatical and I felt very strongly that was the wrong thing and I and others pushed very hard to turn it around.  I guess the situation would have been less up and down if those attempts hadn’t been made but I still feel it was the right thing for Suzuki to do for their brand and their business. But I am not privy to every bit of information inside the Suzuki Motor Corporation and ultimately they have to make a decision that works best in their restrictions and what their long-term targets are.”

Suzuki’s last MotoGP world title came in the 500cc two-stroke championship with Kenny Roberts Junior back in 2000 but it had fallen on hard times and only won one race in the 800cc ear when Chris Vermeulen triumphed in the rain at Le Mans in 2007. The last time a GSV-R was on the podium was back in 2008 when Loris Capirossi finished third in Brno.

British legend Barry Sheene and Kevin Schwantz were amongst Suzuki’s other world champions.

The move means Denning will now exclusively run the Crescent Suzuki World Superbike squad with Leon Camier and John Hopkins.

For more on the Suzuki story and all the latest MotoGP, World Superbike and Britsh Superbike news, see the November 23 issue of MCN.

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  • Suzuki boss speaks on MotoGP withdrawal