MotoGP must become more commercially attractive, says Yamaha

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MotoGP must become more commercially attractive to increase revenue to help fight off the impact of the global economic crisis.

Yamaha racing boss Lin Jarvis believes more income growth, coupled with a range of radical cost-cutting measures currently under discussion, will help MotoGP survive the credit crunch.

He said: “I think when you have times of economic difficulty and recession, everybody has to rethink. That includes Dorna, that includes the FIM, it includes the manufacturers, the private teams, the riders.

“Everybody has to think about how we can, minimize the negative effects and look forward to the future growth. I think the immediate cost-cutting measures that are proposed by the MSMA are a good start.

“Already this year we reduced a lot the winter tests, we are going to reduce further the testing and the practice times throughout the season. There are proposals for 2010 to make important changes in the technical specifications, and I think all these things will be essential. Cost-cutting however is only one story.

“I wouldn’t say cost-cutting is easy, but it’s an action in a negative sense, to try to reduce something.

“But we have to look for how we can grow th income, because the other way to balance costs is to make sure the sport becomes more commercially attractive and that the show becomes something that is more in demand, and the more revenue we have, we can see really long term growth.

“I think we need sensible cost-cutting, serious cost-cutting, but also we need to look for revenue growth, to grow the sport.”

MotoGP bosses were rocked by Kawasaki’s recent decision to withdraw from the championship with immediate affect, shrinking the grid to just 17 bikes while also leaving John Hopkins and Marco Melandri without a ride.

Part of the cost-cutting measure under discussion, which include doubling engine life, shortening practice sessions and switching to just one bike per rider in the future, have been aimed at strengthening grid numbers.

And Jarvis said: “If I look at the (Kawasaki) withdrawal, basically it started at the end of December when almost one after another, after another, firstly Honda stopped, then Suzuki and Subaru in rally, and then finally, unfortunately, Kawasaki.

“It’s a sign of the times. These big factories are pulling out of the top sports disciplines. Fortunately our position as Yamaha is a little different.

“We are facing the crisis as mush as anybody else, but our team project is very successful and that’s why I think we can and will continue into the future, because it’s a very important tool for Yamaha, for its marketing.

“With regards to the number of bikes on the grid in the MotoGP, of course I’m concerned.

“I’d rather not see the global recession, I’d rather see the teams prospering, I’d rather see in excess of, 20,22 or 24 bikes on the grid. We have to face the reality as it is and I sincerely hope that the Kawasaki bikes will stay.

“Ideally it would be at least 19 or 20 bikes on the grid. We have to really seriously rethink for the future how we can further grow the health of the sport.”

Jarvis admitted that Yamaha had inevitably been hit by the global economic slowdown, with budget restrictions enforced to save costs.

The Japanese factory recently announced losses of £300m because of the financial crisis and Jarvis said: “Obviously Yamaha is affected like everybody else. Business is very difficult now, on a global basis.

“We are having difficulty particularly in the developed markets like North America, or Japan, or Europe.

“Business is tough, which means that our financial circumstances are under pressure and everybody is under pressure, whether be racing, or marketing, or product development, across the board there are difficulties to be overcome.

“We have some pressure from the top management of Yamaha to reduce our budget and we will do that by very, very prudent activities to maintain the top performance, but we will trim off all the fat.

“We will be very focused on what we do next year, we will spend money on the things that are really essential, that will bring an additional result. In my opinion we can do that.

“I think it’s a year when we have to be more creative, but I’m confident that the budget restrictions we face will not affect the pure performance of our activities. That’s our mission, so we have to achieve that.”

Jarvis added that Yamaha remained committed to MotoGP and that the world championship remained a crucial marketing tool, despite budgets being slashed and the hefty investment needed to compete in the premier class.

“There is a lot of pressure on costs on all of our business. We are very fortunate I would say that firstly we were fortunate to be successful for the brand last year, but also several times in recent years.

“Yamaha is very much a marketing oriented company and we’ve really seen the benefit, especially in the last five or six years, we’ve seen the integration of MotoGP into a lot of our promotions worldwide, so there is a real support, even under pressure, from the Yamaha network, there’s a real support to continue MotoGP.

“Only last week our President, Mr Kajikawa, made a statement, in Japan, to the media, where he said that we will continue in racing and especially in MotoGP, because the activities we do in the MotoGP, he said it’s like the beat of a war drum for the company.

“I think that if you’ve got a President giving you that much support, then it’s fantastic and it’s up to us to deliver the promise, but I’m quite confident that Yamaha will stay in MotoGP.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt