MotoGP's newest team, Ilmor, has called an immediate halt to its racing activities until desperately-needed sponsorship is secured.
Ilmor had hoped to find its full 2007 budget by competing in two rounds at the end of the 2006 season, thus proving to potential investors the seriousness of its 800cc project, but the team's X3 was still unbranded during last Saturday's season-opening Qatar Grand Prix - leaving Ilmor to foot the bill for chassis and engine development, plus race team running costs.
To make matters worse, riders Andrew Pitt
and Jeremy McWilliams
have been permanently trapped at the tail of the field - between 3-5secs per lap from the front - making the team's chances of attracting significant sponsorship slim. McWilliams subsequently missed Saturday's race through injury, while Pitt retired from last place with a technical problem.
As a result of such on- and off-track troubles, team principal Mario Illien has made the difficult decision to call what he hopes will be a temporary halt to Ilmor GP's racing activities - while continuing machine development.
"We discussed the situation in great detail internally and obviously it was an extremely difficult decision for us to make," said the F1 engine guru. "However once we went through all the options, we decided that the best course of action for the sake of the project as a whole would be to put the racing side of things on hold and continue developing.
"I would like to thank Dorna, IRTA, FIM and our technical partners and suppliers for their on-going support and patience during this time. My heart is still very much in the team - we have had fantastic support from the public and the media with some great coverage worldwide.
"I would also like to say how enormously proud I am of what we managed to achieve in a short space of time - we have a good group of people who have worked incredibly hard over the past few months. Both riders, Jeremy McWilliams
and Andrew Pitt
have given their best during a difficult development time - I couldn't have asked for more than that.
"We have important meetings and discussions over the next few weeks which will help us to establish the future of the project and team - I am determined to explore all opportunities available to us and I'm hopeful that there will be a positive outcome," he concluded.
Ilmor's absence reduces the permanent MotoGP
grid from 21 to 19 riders.