Suzuki's efforts in the World Supersport class suffered a serious, and possibly fatal blow today. Lead rider for the Hoegee Suzuki team, Barry Veneman announced on his personal blog that he would be leaving the team with immediate effect after the race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Veneman made it clear that the reason for the split was a dispute over contracts, rather than over the machine or the team, and made it clear he hoped to be back racing soon.
"Over the past few days I have been a little vague in my blog postings, so I shall be clear now," Veneman wrote. "This was my last race aboard the Hoegee Suzuki. And let me make it clear from the start that this has nothing to do with the bike or the team or the sponsors. This is about a dispute between myself and the new team management which center around contracts. It's a terrible blow, because after last season, I was really determined to score some good results, and had quit my job (Veneman had a PR position with the Dutch Suzuki importer - Ed.) to focus full time on racing. I don't know what the future will bring, I want to keep racing and show that I belong among the top racers in the world. I hope I get that chance. When I'm ready to, I'll explain what led up to this step."
Rumors inside the Dutch motorcycling world suggest that the "contractual dispute" revolves around money. The Hoegee Suzuki team parted ways with its main sponsor, RES Software, at the start of the season, the Dutch maker of desktop administration software moving over to sponsor the Veidec Racing team fielding Robbin Harms, Arie Vos and Jesco Gunther. Since then, the team has run without a title sponsor, funded mainly through Suzuki's racing program.
Worse could be to come for Suzuki, though, as rumors are also circulating that the Hoegee team could pull out of the championship altogether, leaving Suzuki with no representation in the crucially important World Supersport class. It is believed that the team will announce its withdrawal on Tuesday, though no confirmation of this has yet been received.
Veneman has had an indifferent start to the season this year, his best results a couple of 8th places at Assen and Valencia, and is currently 12th in the championship. Much greater things had been expected of the Dutch rider, as Veneman had had a very strong finish to the season in 2008, scoring consistently in the top 6 from Brno onwards, and finally bagging his first podium at Magny Cours in October. His 8th places in the championship in 2007 and 2008 were Suzuki's best title results since 2003. But the new season simply hasn't brought the results Veneman or the team had hoped for.
Suzuki's lack of results in the World Supersport class are down to a simple factor: A lack of investment from the factory, the money going instead into Suzuki's MotoGP program. But the reasoning behind the decision not to invest in the race series for the biggest-selling class of sportsbikes remains an enigma. The bike has the potential, as Suzuki's results in both the AMA and BSB series have demonstrated. But the strategic decision not to invest in Supersport remains, and without that investment, Suzuki will not achieve the results they might otherwise expect. If the Hoegee team does pull out of the World Supersport series, we shall see whether Suzuki feels it can afford not to have any bikes at all in the class.