Dorna Rejects Legal Action Against Suzuki - For Now

The relationship between MotoGP organizers Dorna and Suzuki has been very strained for the past few months. Rumors that Suzuki would pull out of MotoGP emerged over the summer of 2010, and after a meeting in Japan was postponed after the Motegi MotoGP round, Suzuki eventually announced they would be fielding just a single machine in 2011, with Alvaro Bautista riding it.

Since that announcement, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has made his unhappiness with Suzuki very clear, issuing veiled threats of legal action to force the Hamatsu factory to live up to the terms of their contract. Unfortunately - for Dorna at least - the terms of the contract do not appear to specify the minimum number of bikes that a factory must run in MotoGP, and Suzuki has seized upon this loophole to run just the one bike.

Dorna now appears to have accepted this situation, albeit begrudgingly. Speaking at Ducati's Wrooom! launch at the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio, Carmelo Ezpeleta told the press that Dorna would be holding off on legal action to force Suzuki to honor the terms of their contract. Ezpeleta emphasized that this was merely a postponement, however, and that MotoGP's commercial rights holder could revisit their position at any time in the future, "now or in six months' time." That decision, the Dorna CEO explained, would depend on Suzuki's behavior, and their commitment to MotoGP beyond 2012. Dorna had not had direct news from Suzuki on that subject, Ezpeleta told the press, though he had been talking to representatives of the manufacturers' association, the MSMA. Legal action remained a last resort, however, only to be taken if Dorna believed it would resolve the situation.

Suzuki's reduction to just a single machine exposes the weakness of Dorna's position with respect to the manufacturers. After Kawasaki announced unilaterally that they were pulling out of MotoGP at the end of the 2008 season, Ezpeleta visited all of the Japanese factories, and made it clear to their senior management that such a move would be a breach of their contracts to race in MotoGP, which run until the end of the 2011 season. That series of meetings persuaded the factories to stay in MotoGP in the depths of the global financial crisis, though the strong yen and a weak Japanese economy has meant that staying is an expensive business.

Suzuki's reduction from two bikes to one in the final year of their contract with the MSMA and Dorna is stretching the limits of the permissible, though rumors persist that Suzuki will be back from 2012 with an expanded and radically revised 1000cc bike for the new rules. Carmelo Ezpeleta expects those rules to bring about a return to healthier grids, reiterating at Madonna di Campiglio that he expects 22 bikes on the grid from 2012 onwards. With Moto2 chassis builder Suter having confirmed they are building a CRT machine, and Kalex and FTR believed to be at least considering such a move, with the former actively designing a CRT bike, there is a strong chance that Ezpeleta could be proved right.

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I realize that Ezpeleta is posturing and publicizing the situation as much of as possible in order to gain an upper hand against Suzuki. And maybe this is naïve thinking, but is it not in Dorna's best interest to collaborate with Suzuki on a solution that works for everyone? Right now, even if Dorna and Suzuki reach some middle ground, an air of tension and unease exists; that does no one any good.

(I realize that what I wrote sounds very naïve but I cannot help it).

Of course its in his best interest to do that. Its also in his best interest to increase fuel capacities, move to a standard ECU with minimal forms of traction control and no GPS sensors. But he has given up the ability to do this by including the factories in the decision making process. He should be allowed to hear arguments for or against presented by the factories, but they shouldnt be allowed to write the rule book as they see fit, which is basically what they can do now.

Its the only way he can exercise any kind of power since he ceded it all away. If I was Suzuki and I really wanted to leave, Id see how much they were going to hit me up for in court, then compare it to my budget for the year and see if Im saving money.

In business we say that a good compromise is when both sides are unhappy.

If I'm not mistaken, then the reason Kawazaki ran Melandri (admittedly on a re-badged bike) was because it was going to be cheaper than the damages Dorna was likely to seek.

Of course, over a year down the line, this may not be the case for Suzuki.

Realistically, what can Dorna do ? Suzuki are a multinational HQ'd in Japan, Dorna are a typical parasite organisation whose efforts at playing both ends against the middle have backfired and a Japanese court aren't going to give Dorna the time of day in any claim. If it went to court in Spain and Suzuki gave a finger to Dorna, ignored the lawsuit, it's dead in the water. The Spanish aren't going to hassle a company that is employing Spanish "workers", especially with an unemployment rate of 24% in Spain.

They could shoot themselves in the foot and ban the use of Suzuki's 1000 engine in the CRT class !

Yeah I'm inclined to agree with you. The more I learn about Dorna the less I stomach their practices. They are entirely fascist in their dealings. Or worse, like the mafia, bullying and threatening their supposed business partners. You do it our way or we'll make you pay...

I hope Suzuki continues to ignore such tactics and set an example to the rest of the paddock

Though a strong yen makes life harder for Japanese makers in general because it reduces the money they got home from selling abroad (and they sell mainly abroad), if anything, it cheapens their MotoGP operations, because:
- in house development is independent of exchange rate, or maybe cheaper since materials/parts coming from abroad are cheaper to buy.
- all the running costs of the teams (all of them mainly based abroad) are likely to be lower.

I think Suzuki had no intention of investing the huge amount of dough it would take to be competitive in the last years of the 800 series simply to have to restart in the 1000cc era. Like they did in the year before the 800's they are now developing the 1000cc engine for next year. They'll be there and hopefully not too far behind electronically. I'd rather they had 4 bikes on the grid but 1 is better than nothing.