Spanish magazine Solo Moto
reports that there is a '50%' chance of Kawasaki lettings its ZX-RRs remain in MotoGP next season, but that the final decision has been delayed due to reliability concerns with the new machine.
Despite signing Marco Melandri on a multi-year deal to partner John Hopkins in 2009, and development of the new ZX-RR being well advanced, Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced on January 9 that it had 'decided to suspend its MotoGP racing activities from 2009 season onward and reallocate management resources more efficiently' in response to the global financial crises.
But Dorna, facing a slim 17 rider grid, is unwilling to allow Kawasaki to simply walk away from the remaining three years of its MotoGP contract, instead offering to release the company from the 2010 and 2011 seasons providing its machines were still on the grid in 2009 - and warning that they would 'take Kawasaki to court' if they were absent.
Dorna, Kawasaki and race team boss Michael Bartholemy have since been working on a solution that would allow Bartholemy and other former factory team members to run the ZX-RRs as a privateer entry in 2009, with possible assistance from an outside engineering company - Kawasaki only having enough engines built for 25% of the season.
Kawasaki's subsequent decision to test at Eastern Creek and then Phillip Island proved that the ZX-RR project was not as dead as the initial KHI announcement indicated, but it seems that those tests also raised concerns over the 'all-new' 2009 machine's reliability.
As a result, Solo Moto
states that Kawasaki has delayed a final decision on whether to let the ZX-RRs race until the end of this week - by which time a further Phillip Island test will have been completed. The report added that “at present there is a 50% chance of Kawasaki being on the MotoGP grid in 2009”.
Kawasaki, the only MotoGP manufacturer not to win a race since the four-stroke era began in 2002, took a best finish of fifth last season with Hopkins and Anthony West.