Suzuki Snags Rizla At Last

For a long time, it looked like it wasn't going to happen, but at last, it's been made official: Today, Suzuki announced that once again, they will be the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team. Negotiations had been dragging on for months, and after Rizla pulled out of sponsoring the Crescent Suzuki team in BSB, there was a great deal of speculation that they would follow suit for the MotoGP team, which is run by the same Crescent Suzuki organization.

Things started to swing back in Suzuki's favor at the Sepang tests in February. After Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen showed very strongly at Sepang, Capirossi even leading at one point, the talks with Rizla moved up a gear. And with Suzuki now looking a good deal more competitive than they did last year, Rizla may have decided to give it one last shot in MotoGP. At least, that's certainly the way things look, with the cigarette rolling paper company having signed on for just a single year.

The most interesting question will of course remain unanswered, and that is just what price Rizla paid for the highest prize in MotoGP sponsorship: to be title sponsor of a factory team. There is still anger in the paddock at the alleged pittance that the team sold the title sponsorship for. By selling themselves cheap, it was felt, it made it more difficult for other teams to get the true value of a title sponsorship, which should be nearer to 20 million euros for a factory team, rather than 2 or 3 million. On the upside, though, a major sponsor has been kept inside the MotoGP paddock, for another year at least.

At the IRTA Test in Jerez, Suzuki will roll out in their instantly recognizable powder blue livery, rather than the bland and indistinguishable blue and white Suzuki colors. Race fans will be glad of that, and that they won't need to buy a new set of t-shirts and caps for another year.

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I disagree with those who believe that Suzuki sold "themselves cheap . . . . [making it] more difficult for other teams to get the true value of a title sponsorship . . . ." The price that Rizla paid, whatever it may be, is the value that they and Suzuki agreed for the EXPOSURE of the motorcycles before the public (in person, in advertising, and on television). Of course, Fiat, Repsol, and Marlboro are going to pay more - the exposure that their motorcycles get, courtesy of the excellent showing of Rossi, Yamaha, Honda, and Stoner, is quite a bit more, and therefore worth a lot more. When Rizla signed on, where was Suzuki? Not as bad as some second tier teams but at the same time not vying for wins, week in and week out. If (hopefully when) Suzuki starts getting on the podium regularly, then you can expect their next title sponsorship deal to be worth more than what Rizla is purported to have paid. On the other hand, if Suzuki is stagnant, then you cannot expect a potential title sponsor to shell out the same amount of money as the other sponsors I mentioned above.

If Suzuki can maintain consistent development of their bike with the funds that were agreed to by Rizla than who cares how much it is. Would the bike be faster with more money?

With such a small field in GP, all sponsors are instantly recognized. If it were a 30+ bike grid, than most sponsors would be suffering with anonymity. Now I will know about Rizla smoke papers forever,,, mission accomplished.

No more attrition please,, just race.

Okay, I admit this is sort of off-topic, but . . . . I was 24 when I had my first smoke. At that time I was living in NYC, so I went into my local bodega and stared at a wall full of cigarette brands. Camel cigarettes were out of the picture since they were unfiltered, and I did not want to smoke Marlboro lights since they are ubiquitous with yeshiva bums. What did I end up buying? Rothmans. The reason why may surprise you. In my mind’s eye I saw Porsche prototypes flashing down the Mulsanne Straight and pounding around the runways of Sebring, Jacques Villeneuve wrestling his Williams FW19 on the streets of Monaco, and the Porsche 959 winning the Paris-Dakar rally. At that time other motorsport-sponsoring brands came to mind, but for some reason they did not leave the same imprint on me. Later I switched to smoking Nat Sherman cigarettes, but they became too expensive for such a habit.

Here is another tale. I used to drink Gatorade, but switched when I saw a dazzling display of driving from Tommy Kendall at Road America. All Sport sponsored his Ford Mustang, and for some reason I felt I should take up their banner and drink their product instead of being like Mike.

P.S. I stopped smoking about one year after starting. I never got a nicotine high and the calming sensation that I thought would happen.