Dorna right to deny Suzuki new entry in 2014

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MotoGP bosses are right not to give Suzuki an automatic entry to return with a new full factory 1000cc effort in the 2014 world championship.

Suzuki has been told by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta that it won’t be given a new entry to re-join the grid next year, but will have to negotiate a deal to collaborate or buy-out an existing squad like Gresini Honda or Aspar to participate.

By insisting that Suzuki uses a current entry to participate, should the Japanese factory decide on a sudden withdrawal, the team it joined forces with could still potentially survive by forming a relationship with another factory.

That way grid numbers will remain stable and teams that have wanted a place on the grid and the resources to compete have not been rejected in favour of a fully-fledged manufacturer effort from the likes of Suzuki.

Ezpeleta’s refusal to roll out the red carpet for a Suzuki return in 2014 has been welcomed by Tech 3 Yamaha boss and International Race Teams Association President Herve Poncharal.

The Frenchman told MCN: “This is the best solution and the best thing that can be done for the MotoGP grid. We have been pushing for that for many years and we all agreed on the concept but it never happened because to have factories joining was a big thing for the championship and they had a lot of power.

Before when they have said they are coming with their own team and their own organisation, we have been too weak in the past. Formula One has done this very well in ensuring grid stability and the survival of non-factory teams. All the independent teams have been pushing for this for so many years and I was so happy when I read this was the plan.

At least this gives more value to a MotoGP entry and more value to companies like LCR, Gresini and Aspar. Let’s take Aspar as an example. If he has a two-year deal with Suzuki for 2014 and 2015 and Suzuki suddenly decides to pull out, then Aspar still survives and he can work with another factory. If BMW one day decides to join and Kawasaki and Aprilia are coming back, we can’t have 30 bikes on the grid because there isn’t enough money to support that number.

And you can’t get into a situation where you turn round to any team that has been supporting the championship during the hard times and say they must stop to allow a new factory to come in.”

Poncharal said the concept of Suzuki aligning itself with an external effort was not a new one for the Japanese factory, as its previous factory effort was run out of the UK by Garry Taylor and most recently Paul Denning.

Poncharal said: “When you look at what they have been doing in the past, they have operated this kind of system before. They were using a structure that was built by Garry Taylor and then Paul Denning.”

And Poncharal believes constant uncertainty surrounding Suzuki’s recent past means Dorna is right not to sacrifice an existing team that has supported the series in favour of welcoming back a major factory.

Suzuki withdrew its factory effort at the end of 2011, blaming the impact of the worldwide financial crisis. Prior to that Suzuki had not honoured a pledge to run a two-rider effort, having slashed its entry to one GSV-R for Alvaro Bautista in 2011.

The rookie rule was also changed to make Suzuki exempt, while up until this season, Honda, Yamaha and Ducati couldn’t immediately hire fresh young talent to ride in its factory team.

Poncharal added: “They were supposed to enter for five years and then they failed to honour that and then they have a contract for two riders and they change to one rider. They supported the rookie rule and then they wanted that broken for them and then eventually they left despite all that was given to them.

This should even help Suzuki because if they have to start from scratch it means they have to find a workshop, buy trucks and spend a lot of money that at the moment they probably can’t afford. It is up to them to select the right team and people.”

Poncharal cited the example of Kawasaki’s factory effort in World Superbikes as to how collaboration between a major manufacturer and independent team can work successfully.
Kawasaki worked with Paul Bird Motorsport in 2011 before switching to run its factory ZX-10R project to the Spanish-based Provec outfit last season.

The team’s European logistical base was in Spain but overall control came directly from Japan, as the World Superbike effort is a full Kawasaki Heavy Industries project.
Last year British rider Tom Sykes came tantalisingly close to winning the WSB crown when he lost by just half-a-point after a dramatic final round decider with Aprilia’s Max Biaggi.

Poncharal said: “Look at what Kawasaki did in World Superbikes. They used to work with Paul Bird and now with a Spanish team and it works very well. Kawasaki is still providing the technical support and there is a team that has been chosen by Kawasaki, so they still have the power to run the team. They have done this very successfully while keeping control on all aspects of the project.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt