By Rod Hanrick
With just three rounds remaining in the 2011 MotoGP season it's getting close to crunch time for Suzuki's grand prix project.
After a season of remaining tight-lipped about their involvement in the 2012 MotoGP season, Rizla Suzuki's Manager Paul Denning could receive a verdict from Suzuki HQ this weekend in Phillip Island.
Suzuki's indecision has been caused by the economic crisis, which closed Kawasaki's MotoGP program in 2008 and reduced Suzuki's participation to a single rider this season.
If Suzuki now decides to quit MotoGP altogether, the sport will lose one of the best looking bikes in the paddock, while the premier-class field will consist of only three factory-backed race teams - Honda, Yamaha and Ducati.
Hardly what you would expect from the premier-class of motorcycle racing, especially with Ducati currently struggling to produce machinery capable of regular combat with Honda and Yamaha.
Next year will see the inclusion of new privateer teams running CRT bikes, but in testing to date these have been not only significantly slower than the new factory-backed 1000s but behind the outgoing 800s, an ominous sign for the state of competition at the front of the field for 2012.
At this point it seems as if the closest racing and jostling for position next year could again be mid- and rear-pack. So in the interests of racing, let's hope that MotoGP's governing body Dorna does all it can to save Suzuki from extinction.
Suzuki's Spanish rider Alvaro Bautista has been steadily improving throughout the season, after breaking his femur in the opening round in Qatar, with a season best result of fifth in the British GP and a strong performance in Motegi running as high as fourth before crashing out.
Bautista is currently in the sights of Ducati satellite teams and the LCR Honda team for 2012, to replace the struggling Toni Elias, but is said to prefer to stay at Suzuki if they continue.
Suzuki's former full time rider and 2011 BSB runner-up John Hopkins is also available if the factory decides to stay and MotoGP fans of any persuasion will be waiting in hope of a positive decision for Denning's boys in blue.