Fiat replacement eludes Yamaha

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The impact of the global economic crisis is still biting hard in MotoGP with Yamaha as yet to find a title sponsor for the 2011 world championship.

Despite being the dominant squad in MotoGP since 2008, Yamaha’s factory team has yet to attract fresh investment following the departure of Fiat as its main backer.

The Italian car company ended its successful sponsorship collaboration after the 2010 campaign when Valentino Rossi opted to quit and join rivals Ducati on a two-year contract.

Several big companies have been linked with the naming rights to Yamaha’s factory squad next season, including Petronas, Telefonica and AirAsia.

But at the moment, Yamaha has been unable to successfully conclude negotiations and at present Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies will race in the Japanese factory’s corporate blue colours in 2011.

That Yamaha has been unable to attract fresh investment from such a position of strength is a further indication at how the financial meltdown has impacted on MotoGP.

Yamaha has won the triple crown of rider, team and constructor titles every year since 2008 and with such results is arguably the most marketable squad in MotoGP.

But it seems nobody is clamouring to offer financial support to Yamaha and race boss Lin Jarvis told MCN: “We are looking to find a replacement title sponsor. We still have a few irons in the fire and it is not too late.

“The season starts close to the end of March and I’ve been in situations before where we’ve started back in 2007 running blue bikes before we signed Fiat.

“It is not completely strange but at the same time of course it doesn’t give a good feeling and my concern is more for the sport as well as ourselves because if our team with such success with young star riders would not be able to get a title sponsor, then I think we have to look again at what the sport is offering to these commercial companies and partners.

“That concerns me more than the short-term problem. The short-term problem we are working hard to solve and we are optimistic and hopeful we can find a sponsor.

“If not we have a plan B and that would be to run in the corporate colours. It puts some pressure on the budget but we will find a solution.”

Like all motorcycle manufacturers, Yamaha has been hit hard by the economic crisis, with production sales decimated.

So what would be the impact on Yamaha’s stretched finances and future strategy if it had to self-fund its MotoGP effort in 2011?

Jarvis explained: “A title sponsor helps with the running costs of the programme. The core investment is really paid by the mother company.

“Behind this relatively compact team you see at the circuit there is an army of engineers back in Japan spending more on R and D and future development.

“That also has a purpose not only for racing but to train engineers to develop future technology. Riders are an essential part of the package and it helps us pay the appropriate salary, so I would not want to go a long time without a title sponsor.

“We must be ready, as any business is, for how to manage in good and bad times. I hope that we will be successful in the up coming months to work with a good partner.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt