Those who follow the MotoGP championship are aware that Suzuki has shown interest in coming back to the MotoGP world championship with an inline four powered 1000 cc motorcycle, after it abandoned the series at the end of 2011. Suzuki was then using a V4 configuration 800 cc engine to power its MotoGP efforts. Suzuki’s return to the series in 2014 is not a surprise news since for sometime now there has been talk of the 1000 cc being tested by factory rider Nobuatsu Aoki and the news that Suzuki has held talks with series organiser Dorna for an entry position on the grid for 2014. However, Dorna has been playing coy saying that Suzuki does not get an automatic entry as a manufacturer and that they either have to buy out an existing team or team up with them to run the factory effort. Suzuki seems reluctant to take this route and it has been seen that negotiations are still continuing with Dorna and if at all there is a necessity to do so, Suzuki is expected to team up with Aspar who will then run their official MotoGP effort.
Even while this puzzle still remains unsolved, the boss of the Forward team, that ran a single BMW-Suter entry in the CRT category last year and has shifted to the Kawasaki-FTR combination, again to compete in the CRT, has revealed that he has been in talks with both Suzuki and Kawasaki to become the front for the factory efforts. This is the first time that Kawasaki has mentioned in the context of MotoGP. What gives credibility to Giovanni Cuzari’s statement is the fact that when Kawasaki withdrew at the end of 2008 and was forced by Dorna to field at least on bike (or pay up a hefty fine) the manufacturer was linked to team Hayate which then ran a black liveried motorcycle for Marco Melandri. At the end of 2009 even this entry was withdrawn and whatever was left of Hayate became Forward Racing who took a step down to go racing in the Moto2 championship. Last year Forward Racing while continuing its efforts in Moto2, also stepped back up with Colin Edwards riding the BMW-Suter, to the MotoGP class, albeit as a CRT entry. Colin Edwards’ travails with the BMW-Suter meant that the team has shifted to the Kawasaki-FTR combination that was being used by Avintia Racing, for 2013.
However, Giovanni Cuzari, the boss of Forward Racing seems set on running a full factory entry or go with the customer Honda RC213V or with a Yamaha M1 engine in a custom built chassis. But his interest is obviously to run a full fledged factory entry with either Suzuki or Kawasaki. While the Suzuki angle is not very clear, the Kawasaki angle is. Cuzari not only has contact with the Japanese factory but also with the man the Kawasaki lured away from Yamaha’s racing division, Ichiro Yoda. Yoda was the man behind the Hayate effort and is also now the main in charge of the factory effort of Kawasaki in World Superbikes. The year 2012 was good for Kawasaki in the World Superbike series with rider Tom Sykes missing out on the World Champion ship by .5 points.
Cuzari’s talk may not be without substance given the fact that Kawasaki has always had a practice of letting their factory effort in World Superbikes and initially when they returned to MotoGP, run by other teams. In World Superbikes, Kawasaki won the championship with Scot Russel when the team was run by Rob Muzzy. Later on the team was handed over to Harald Eckl who also started running the MotoGP effort before Kawasaki found that he was working with Illmor engineering also. The Illmor effort was still born but Eckl lost his place in Kawasaki. The effort of Kawasaki in World Superbikes was with Paul Bird Motorsport who were fired after drugs and guns were discovered in the Kawasaki transport trucks and the Spanish outfit Provec now runs the effort. Last year the Kawasaki World Supersport team which won the World championship was run by Team Lorenzini and this year that honour has fallen on Mahi Racing an Indian Team run by cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni and actor Nagarjuna Akkineni.
It is therefore entirely conceivable that Kawasaki may want to work with Forward Racing for the 2014 MotoGP World Championship. Equally significant is the fact that World Superbikes will not be the same from next year on. Dorna has now taken control of the series from Infront and while it has promised that there will be no merger of the two series, it has also said that the series will go more towards racing production machines rather than souped up machines that are now the norm in World Superbikes. The rules of the 2014 World Superbikes are not yet in place but it is believed that by May of this year there will be clarity in which the series will go, though most people concerned with the series in some capacity have been saying that it is most likely to go the production bike racing way.
If it does move in that direction then it makes great sense for Kawasaki to comeback to MotoGP which will then become a series of cutting edge technology yet again. And given the work culture at Kawasaki there are established precedents of the factory effort being run by third party teams, it is entirely conceivable that Kawasaki may renew their ties with MotoGP and with Forward Racing from 2014 onwards. Giovanni Cuzari has said that a lot now depends on Ichiro Yoda and his ability to convince the bosses at Kawasaki that entering the MotoGP space yet again would be sensible. One could expect to see a clearer situation post May, 2013 when the new rules for the World Superbike Championship for 2014 will be announced. That may be the clincher for Kawasaki to decide about participating or not participating in the MotoGP World Championships again from the year 2014.
MotoGP fans may also wait expectantly for the news of Aprilia and BMW also showing some interest. In the past, the head of Aprilia’s racing division Gigi D’all Igna had said that if the rules were stable then Aprilia will consider returning. Their ART machines in the CRT category are already testing waters. Now BMW could be interesting. However, please remember a lot of this speculation and the possibility of MotoGP remaining where it is today with none of the factories mentioned above, including Kawasaki not returning to the series. But the hopeful will want to believe that there could be a change and MotoGP can yet again become the vibrant series that it once was. So lets wait with fingers crossed and hope for the best.