The chances of Kawasaki's ZX-RRs continuing to race in MotoGP have been dealt a further blow after the machines were not present at the start of official 2009 testing, at Sepang on Thursday.
Ever since Kawasaki Heavy Industries announced its withdraw from MotoGP on January 9 - due to the global financial crises - Dorna and race team boss Michael Bartholemy have been working on a solution that would allow Bartholemy and his former factory team members to run the ZX-RRs as a privateer entry in 2009.
Kawasaki's subsequent decision to test at Eastern Creek and then Phillip Island provided hope of such a deal being reached, but it subsequently emerged that the test team had encountered reliability problems during the Australian outings - delaying a final decision from Kawasaki.
A firm yes or no to the privateer project is yet to be publically announced, but the absence of the ZX-RRs from Sepang indicates - at the very least - that Kawasaki is still far from convinced that allowing the machines to race on will be in its best interests.
Kawasaki is the only MotoGP manufacturer not to win a race since the four-stroke era began in 2002 and took a best finish of fifth last season with Hopkins and Anthony West, but the team had high hopes of an improvement from its brand new 2009 racer.
Kawasaki had also signed former MotoGP World Championship runner-up Marco Melandri to ride alongside Hopkins this season.
Dorna has warned Kawasaki that its ZX-RRs 'must race' in 2009 if Kawasaki wants to be released from the following two years of its MotoGP contract.
Kawasaki's absence would reduce this year's premier-class field to just 17 riders.