It had been rumoured for a while, in fairness, although the timing could arguably have been better, as just a day after Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri twice finished second and third respectively at Silverstone, Yamaha has announced that it is to withdraw from the World Superbike Championship come season's end.
Yamaha's commitment to WSBK has been the topic of speculation inside the paddock for a good many months, but ironically, whilst many had tipped the company to pull the plug at the end of the 2010 campaign – with Cal Crutchlow its best-placed rider in fifth in the final rankings, and just fourth spot in the manufacturers' standings – 2011 has been distinctly more competitive, with Melandri and Laverty sitting third and fourth in the points table at present, and Yamaha second only to Ducati.
What's more, only recently, the Italian strongly suggested that he would be staying put at the Yamaha World Superbike Team next year [see separate story – click here
], whilst the Ulsterman is on a two-year deal.
Nonetheless, as of 2012, there will be no 'works' Yamaha representation in the World Superbike Championship – with 'severe' market conditions bearing the brunt of the blame.
'Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. (YME) has decided to withdraw their official Yamaha World Superbike Team at the end of the current season from the FIM Superbike World Championship', reads a statement. 'This announcement follows a full strategic review of the marketing operations within Europe, including all motorsport activities, and takes into account the continuing severe and rapidly-changing Powered Two-Wheeler market conditions throughout the region.
'Due to this decision, more resource and focus will now be used for direct 'customer' activities to ultimately add more value to Yamaha ownership and increased customer satisfaction.
'YME would like to express their sincere thanks and appreciation for the total commitment, support and passion shown by the extremely professional and dedicated riders and team members both past and present throughout the many years of participation in the FIM Superbike World Championship.
'YME would also like to thank all the highly-valued business partners and suppliers who have in-turn supported the team, and in addition would like to thank Infront Motorsports, the FIM Superbike World Championship promoters. YME has chosen this timing of announcement to ensure that all existing obligations are correctly met, and to not limit any opportunities or future planning for all personnel involved.
'Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty are currently respectively third and fourth in the overall 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship standings for riders with four rounds to go. YME and the team will continue to give its maximum efforts until the end of the existing season to try and regain the World Superbike title which Yamaha also won in 2009.
'Yamaha will continue the availability of road racing kit parts, known as YEC Racing kit parts, for its R1 and R6 production models for private teams entering at all racing levels.'