Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki has finally confirmed that it is to withdraw from the MotoGP world championship, having prevaricated over a decision most involved in the sport thought likely for some time.
The Japanese marque has joined others in various areas of motorsport - Honda in F1 and both Suzuki and Subaru in WRC - by citing the need to 'cut costs amid the global financial crisis' as the main reason for its exit from the top flight of motorcycle racing, to which it returned in 2003.
"The effect of the current financial crisis on the global economy is extremely significant and an extended period of time is required for a recovery,"an official Kawasaki statement explained, "We saw the need for efficient redistribution of our management resources and have decided to forgo participation in the Moto GP from 2009 on," it said.
The team was reported as spending nearly £30m a year to do battle with the likes of Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki, but has felt the pinch as world-wide sales of its road bikes suffered in the current financial climate. Whether the familiar green machines re-appear in MotoGP also remains doubtful unless the situation improves.
"We took the final decision not to continue in MotoGP," Katsuhiro Sato confirmed to Reuters
, "It's something we have been considering since mid-December. In the current economic climate, and unless the situation improves, it is difficult to say if we will return."
With only four podiums to show for its six full seasons in MotoGP, results have not been encouraging for the Kawasaki team, whose exit leaves John Hopkins and the luckless Marco Melandri without rides with just weeks to go before the start of 2009 testing.
As things stand, the MotoGP grid will have just 17 bikes when the season kicks off in Qatar in early April and promoter Dorna's only hope of increasing that number - and keeping the number of competing marques at five - now rests with a privateer Kawasaki effort. Such a possibility has been mooted in recent days, with Jorge Martinez among the options having been rumoured to be interested in running a semi-works effort, but there are no commitments to keeping either Hopkins or Melandri in the series.
The Italian, however, is among those that Dorna would like to see battling with the likes of Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, and it is rumoured that efforts will be made to keep him involved, even though Hopkins is rumoured to bring more sponsorship to the table which, ultimately, could decide who, including those outside the erstwhile '09 Kawasaki line-up, makes any Aspar team.