Breaking news: Ilmor out of MotoGP

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Ilmor dropped a bombshell today by announcing it has suspended its MotoGP team after just one round of the 2007 world championship.

In a phone call to MCN this morning, Ilmor boss Mario Illien confirmed that he had decided to withdraw from the world championship with immediate effect due to a lack of sponsorship.

A decision was taken yesterday by Ilmor boss Mario Illien at the team’s Brixworth headquarters in Northamptonshire and communicated to shell-shocked riders Jeremy McWilliams and Andrew Pitt and GP bosses Dorna. The team will not race in next weekend’s Spanish GP in Jerez and will not return until the team has secured financial backing.

Engine development will continue, but without any sponsorship Illien has decided to pull the plug in what is a devastating blow for MotoGP, with the grid now slashed indefinitely to just 19 bikes.

Illien told MCN: “It is very disappointing and I underestimated how difficult it is to secure backing for this particular activity. I knew it would be expensive and I’m not surprised from the cost point of view, but I’m surprised how difficult it has been to secure the right backing. We were confident and hopeful that we would get sufficient backing to go racing and that has not materialised.

"We need to act rather than spending a lot of money and having a problem later on. We have been thinking about this for some time, I was thinking of withdrawing before the start of the season. As time went on I was hopeful we could secure something. But at the same time we moved forward in the hope and belief that we could attract some backing. We have some backing but not sufficient to run for the whole season. We are not going to race in Jerez. Dorna is very disappointed that we are not participating but they respect and understand our decision. Without financial support it is too difficult.”

Illien said he had no intention of ceasing the V4 project, but confirmed the obvious shock and disappointment felt by McWilliams and Pitt. “They are extremely disappointed because they wanted to go racing and I want to as well. We will continue to work and try to find some backing. We haven’t given up and said this is it. The project is not dead at all. We have been working for 21 months on this project and I’m not going to walk away from it just like that. But if we continue like this we could be in difficulty and I don’t want to get to that point. We have to scale things down and be realistic," said Illien, a renowned Formula One engineer who only recently had been confident on top ten finishes in MotoGP.

The news of Ilmor suspending its racing activity comes hot on the heels of Kenny Roberts announcing recently that he is considering quitting the championship mid-season because of a lack of funding.

Dorna is to host a special sponsorship summit in Barcelona on April 12 and that meeting will take on even greater significance now.

 

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt