Ilmor confirm interest in Kawasaki partnership

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Ilmor Engineering bosses have confirmed expressing serious interest in being part of a last-minute bid to keep Kawasaki involved in the 2009 MotoGP world championship, MCN can exclusively reveal.

The Northamptonshire-based engineering experts have been in ‘recent’ contact with team management including Michael Bartholemy about becoming technical partner in a plan to run the ZX-RR bikes in a private team.

Ilmor management have been closely monitoring the Kawasaki situation, with Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta trying to influence a rescue deal to keep John Hopkins and Marco Melandri on the grid in 2009.

Bartholemy is currently in Japan holding crunch talks with Kawasaki management to try and clinch a deal to run the ZX-RR bikes after Kawasaki announced it would withdraw its factory team in early January.

Part of a rescue package includes the need for Kawasaki to agree a technical collaboration with an independent engineering company.

Kawasaki doesn’t have enough parts built for its 2009 ZX-RR to complete the full season, while its withdrawal because of the global economic crisis means it won’t even consider engine servicing or the development of new performance parts during the season.

Ilmor Managing Director Steve Miller told MCN: “First of all as we understand it, Dorna are obviously very keen to make sure that the team keeps going, even if it is not officially funded by Kawasaki. I think they are trying to do everything they can to help.”

In terms of the discussions Ilmor had conducted, Miller said he only talked with Kawasaki team staff and Dorna about collaboration, and not any senior management in Japan.

“I don’t think I am speaking out of turn by saying we have certainly expressed in it. But other than us coming forward and expressing an interest in the possibility we haven’t got too much further forward because it is waiting on a decision from Kawasaki.

"We have spoken to the team. We are just waiting on Kawasaki’s decision, because all we have done is express interest and say we are keen to do the work. We believe a decision is imminent,“ said Miller.

Miller said Ilmor’s involvement would hopefully extend to the development of new parts to improve performance as the season went on.

He added: “We are obviously quite keen to do the servicing work and then if funds were available to do some on-going development then we would be more than happy to do that too. We would love to find a way back into the MotoGP scene and see where it might lead from there.”

Ilmor is currently awaiting news on Bartholemy’s talks in Japan this week, with an outcome on the saga expected by the end of this week, or early next week.

Ilmor’s possible return would see the highly respected engineering company back in the MotoGP fold for the first time since an ill-fated attempt to break into the bike racing world in 2007.

Ilmor boss Mario Illien withdrew the team after just one race in 2007 as he struggled to source sponsorship for the ambitious project, leaving Jeremy McWilliams and Andrew Pitt frozen out.

The bike had struggled to make any significant impact in its early track appearances with reliability and performance issues.

Ilmor though has the distinction of being the first 800cc machine to compete in a race when Garry McCoy rode against 990cc machines at the end of the 2006 campaign.

Ilmor, formed in 1984, has enjoyed success in Formula One and Indy racing in America.

It now possesses its own independent design, development, testing and manufacturing facilities, employing 55 staff in total. Its main business is the development and production of racing engines, from conception through to trackside.

Will an Ilmor and Kawasaki partnership prove competitive? Post a comment below.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt