Suzuki and Dorna have finally agreed terms for the Japanese factory’s withdrawal from MotoGP.
In a press release issued today, Suzuki made official that it would be pulling out of the MotoGP championship at the end of the 2022 season, and ending the participation of the Suzuki Ecstar MotoGP team.
At the same time, they announced they would be withdrawing from official participation in the EWC Endurance World Championship, where they race under the Yoshimura SERT Motul banner.
The announcement brings to an end the surprising saga of Suzuki’s MotoGP exit.
News first emerged at the end of the MotoGP test at Jerez, on the Monday after the Spanish Grand Prix. It took nearly two weeks for those rumors to be confirmed by an official press release stating that talks had begun with Dorna over a withdrawal.
Those talks have now been completed. Though no details have been announced, it is likely that Suzuki will have paid a sizable penalty to terminate its contract.
Those penalties were put in place when contracts with the factories were renewed in 2016, Dorna drawing on lessons learned by the exit of Kawasaki from MotoGP at the end of 2008, and Suzuki (the first time) at the end of 2011.
The MotoGP withdrawal also means an end for the Suzuki Ecstar team. Alex Rins has already signed for LCR Honda, and Joan Mir is close to a deal with Repsol Honda, a sign that the team is also splitting up.
Other team members are in the process of looking elsewhere for employment. With funding for the team provided almost entirely by Suzuki, there was never a chance of the team continuing as an independent entity.
The withdrawal from the EWC endurance championship is a little more of a surprise. The Yoshimura SERT Motul team are currently leading the FIM EWC standings, and have won multiple championships.
The reasons Suzuki give for pulling out of both MotoGP and EWC is a shift in focus toward sustainable transport. However, this move is part of a larger shift by Suzuki out of racing.
The Japanese factory stopped supporting the Crescent Suzuki WorldSBK team at the end of 2015, and pulled factory support from MXGP at the end of 2017.
There are still Suzuki teams racing in BSB and MotoAmerica, but they are privateer, distributor and dealer supported operations, rather than factory efforts. In the press release, Suzuki promise to continue support for racing at the national level through through their network of distributors.
It is clear, both from the press release and from Suzuki’s previous actions in other series, that Suzuki does not believe in the benefits of racing for their business plan.
Factories go racing for a lot of reasons – marketing is arguably the biggest reason to go racing, but racing also provides a platform to do R&D and learn lessons which can be transferred into production, as well as help train engineers to think quickly and clearly about motorcycle dynamics – but none of them have been sufficient to convince Suzuki.
Whether this will have any knock-on effects for their production motorcycle division remains to be seen. If there is to be a shift to developing sustainable transport solutions, there could also be consequences for Suzuki’s street bikes.
Photo: Suzuki Racing