The relatively small grid in MotoGP has been a thorn in Dorna's eye for several years now. To remedy this situation, the organization which runs the MotoGP series is starting to put pressure on the manufacturers which only run factory teams (Suzuki and Kawasaki) to provide extra machinery to satellite teams, to enlarge the grid, and increase the talent pool in the premier class. Up until this weekend, it looked like Suzuki were going to do just that, by providing at least one extra bike in MotoGP next year. The Aspar team, which currently dominates both 125s and 250s, were the designated recipients of the extra Suzuki, and former world champion Kevin Schwantz was to be drafted in to run the team.
That was the theory. But now, reports from both Crash.net and AS.com are claiming that the Aspar / 3rd Suzuki project has been put on hold until 2009. Suzuki don't want to provide a bike to a satellite team if they don't feel they can offer them the proper support, and they don't want to risk the nascent success of the factory-run Rizla Suzuki team by overstretching the racing department supporting too many bikes.
The House Of Hamamatsu is indeed caught on the horns of a dilemma. Now that the project that they have slaved over fruitlessly for so many years is showing signs of competitiveness, with a win and a podium so far this year, and Hopkins running with the Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis almost every weekend, they cannot afford to risk letting their attention be diverted by supplying satellite teams. And yet precisely because of this success, the interest in a satellite bike is very high. According to AS.com, Suzuki has issued strict instructions not to discuss the situation in public, but like most secrets in the paddock, it's the kind of news that is known only to paddock insiders, and a few million of their closest friends.
The lack of a Suzuki does shake up the MotoGP merry-go-round. With one less seat to dispense, the market just got a good deal tighter. Alex de Angelis was the name most closely linked to the project, but with the Aspar seat gone, de Angelis could find it tougher to move up to the premier class. If he comes, then a veteran will have to make way. There'll be a few more worried faces among the MotoGP middle order this evening.