Joan Mir Was Ready To Sign New Suzuki Deal Before Hamamatsu Withdrawal

Three days ago, the bombshell news came out about Suzuki’s decision to leave MotoGP at the end of 2022. So far no official confirmation (nor denial) has been forthcoming from the Hamamatsu factory. Yes, we are all aware of the Golden Week national holiday in Japan, but we cannot forget that lot of careers are hanging on this decision.

We are not just talking about the mechanics and other team members, but the riders themselves too. Because believe it or not, apart from that confidential meeting (that hasn’t remained confidential...) there has been no contact between the team/factory and the riders’ managers. Not with Joan Mir’s manager, for sure, as we have learned.

Anyway this is a crucial year on the rider market, with almost all the current contracts ending at the end of this year. So you all can imagine how upset Paco Sanchez (manager of Joan Mir) is with the current situation.

’This is a really unprofessional attitude’ says the Spaniard's manager, who is coincidentally also a lawyer. ’Nobody from the team or Japan has contacted me to say anything. I understand that Suzuki Motor Corporation obliged the senior team staff not to say anything to anybody. But this is really unfair, unprofessional and an irresponsible way to manage this crisis.’

Sanchez tried to reach Livio Suppo many times from the first moment the news reached him, but his calls were never answered. And if you think that Sanchez (who had left Jerez by Monday) was informed by his rider, you are wrong. He learned it when the journalist who broke the news asked him for a comment.

The Spaniard manager was waiting all Tuesday, before moving into action and starting to reach out to all the team managers who had showed interest in his rider in the past. ’I had waited long enough’ he said Tuesday evening, ’we don’t have any commitment to Suzuki anymore’.

He also emphasized that the rumors about them having a contract with HRC are far from being true. ’From last October our intention was to stay with Suzuki and they also assured me that Joan was their first choice. ’

Sanchez was at Portimão and Jerez as well, and he had several meetings with Suzuki team manager Livio Suppo and MotoGP project leader Shinichi Sahara. They have been finalizing the last couple of details before getting ready to sign a new contract, that as it stands now, will never happen.

Now Sanchez has only one goal: find the best seat for the 2020 World Champion. Maybe it’s still not too late, as apart from Pecco Bagnaia extending with the factory Ducati Team, no other deal has been closed so far this year. Besides Bagnaia, the only seats already filled in factory teams are Marc Marquez with Honda and Brad Binder with KTM through 2024, and Franco Morbidelli with Yamaha for 2023.

It will be interesting to see how the whole situation evolves, how Dorna and the team sponsors will react (the sponsors who also haven’t been informed yet about anything...) and how much will it cost to Suzuki to really leave MotoGP for the second time in a little more than a decade.


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Comments

... this is a PR disaster for Suzuki, and I can't believe that they're handling things this way.

"Golden shower" would be more appropriate.

I wouldn't care if I was on a secluded beach eating peeled grapes and being fanned by Polynesian women in bikinis, if I were in charge of Suzuki and found out that this excrement storm was happening, I'd be blowing up phones from here to Hamamatsu, demanding that someone get their arse out in front of this.

The longer Suzuki stays silent about this, the more they send the message that they don't give a damn about contracts, they don't give a damn about MotoGP, they don't give a damn about their riders, and they don't give a damn about Dorna.

Frankly, I hope that Dorna throws the most rabid, bloodthirsty lawyers at them that they can find.  And I hope Paco Sanchez gets a bite out of their rumps, too.

I had a lot of respect for Suzuki after 2020 and thought of them as "the little engine that could".  Now all I see is "the little engine that said 'Screw you'".  

Outside of the MotoGP microcosm, MotoGP is not very important. Take Kawasaki. If KHI wanted to win mulitple MotoGP titles they could, but they just don't care. Now that Suzuki has a recent world title I can see why they'd want to stem the bleeding. I reckon they took a look at the chances of winning more titles and just figured, forget this! Lets quit while we're waaaaaay ahead!

I wouldn't say Kawasaki could win one let alone multiple titles.  Kawasaki has never won a 500 or MotoGP championship and they have competed for them in the past.  Look how hard it has been for Aprilia and KTM to even win races, and they have both been extremely successful in the lower classes in the past.

KHI just hasn’t spent the money to get it done. That’s all it takes. Modern Motorsport is fundamentally a financial problem. If you don’t like your results spend more. If you’re happy with your results maintain the status quo or traduce your budget. Ducati, and KTM (Red Bull more than KTM) and to a lesser extent Aprillia, are pumping cash into their programs to improve their results. Yamaha looks pretty happy to rest on their laurels and Suzuki has just cashed in their chips.

with your bikes and betting on the law of averages to work in your favor. Not necessarily riders championships. Ducati is a great example of this. KTM... well I'm not sure you're making your case with them at all. Come back with confirmed budgets and actuals spent over the last 20 years for each team and we can test the null hypothesis here. Until then all I see is noise and conjecture. Of course that data is unavailable...

This is racing. Yes, you can spend more and there is certainly a minimum spend necessary to be competitive, but there are many other aspects to racing that go beyond cash, time being one, fortune being another, team dynamics and so much more. For those pumping cash in, how long until they get the results they want? No one can say. How much do they have to spend to win? No one can say. Bankrupt the company and you're out of the game, maybe with a title, maybe without.

I think that in MotoGP/500cc the books point towards having the right rider. Difficult to distil but the record books of recent times tend to have a repetitive nature with just a few names taking most of the wins. There have been years with lots of winners but they are usually one or two in any given season for each rider. However, if you have a Lawson, Rainey, Doohan, Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo or Marquez on your bike...the bike will work out to be not so bad somehow. Lawson, if you look at his results from 1984 to 1989 you might easily imagine he won 6 titles. He did win 4 titles but win or not he was there. Taking over from Lawson was Rainey. From 1990 until that day in Misano...amazing. With these riders it's easier to point out the races finished which were not podiums. Doohan dominated in a period of Honda domination but as half the grid was Honda he stood out head and shoulders above. Rossi 2004, Stoner since 1985 etc etc. Fabio. If you can get one, money well spent. The bike just needs to be attractive enough to tempt such a rider.

100%. And of course the attractiveness of that "bike" encompasses many things such as it better not break down every time it rolls out, you don't have to work with a bunch of jerks just to get on the thing, etc. Seems like a well-run team with a solid bike just needs an alien. Problem is they seem to visit at random. Must be very frustrating for the manufacturers. 

Everyone has their own interpretation of events, but the finances either work or they don't. These are not the best of times for motorcycle manufacturers who want to sell high displacement sports bikes in the developed world. The regulatory framework is not conducive to sport bikes. The unfortunate reality for Dorna is that the MotoGP formula is not helping the situation, and no amount of saber-rattling or legal cajoling is going to make a difference. Dorna is fighting a losing battle in the long run.

Bore-limited 1000cc competition is fun. The bikes are powerful, and many manufacturers can compete when engine performance is bore-limited. However, the onus for spending copious sums of money on the MotoGP 4-stroke formula was to align the sport with the production market. Is the 81mm 1000cc formula production relevant?

I think to some extent, in regards of money required, it's a result of the sport's success. Sticky one, if the sport is less popular it has less reach, less people tuning in, less return for advertising/sponsors, less money surrounding it in general etc. Also less attractive to manufacturers if they are competing for the purpose of showcasing brand success and wish to reach as big an audience as possible. However, it is also in some way more attractive because with less money involved you'd imagine manufacturers would have less money in their budgets, more affordable, less chance of the sporting side having a negative financial impact on the company as a whole.

The sport is popular though, it attracts money, there's money to spend attempting to gain small numbers where the rules prevent big. The popularity also turns top riders into big names and they deserve their portion of the increased pie. At some level the sport has to be worthwhile or it's not worth spending the money. Next stop...budget cap madness ?

Budget Caps are not ideal, but they come in many different flavors, and most of them would be superior to the current bore-limited formula. MotoGP is almost useless, even in the best of times. The manufacturers are trying to get 250+ hp to the ground while achieving optimal grip balance with active suspension and aerodynamics. It's so far removed from street bikes, it's a bit laughable.

The only thing prototype racing provides anymore is rapid prototyping and performance simulation, but racing should be providing a third benefit. The manufacturers should be playing around with the combustion chamber and fuel delivery systems, trying to squeeze the last 1%-2% of thermal efficiency out of the fuel. This has a direct correlation to emissions regulations in the production market, and the engine specification can also have a direct connection to production sales. 

MotoGP doesn't provide this opportunity. Fuel pressures, injection techniques, valve-timing mechanisms, bore, stroke, displacement per cylinder, etc. are all tightly regulated. We arrived at this point because the manufacturers concocted a genuinely awful formula, and Dorna responded. Unfortunately, the 81mm formula merely moved the date of death back 20 years. A new formula is necessary. Something similar to what the MSMA wanted 15 years ago, but with much better financial benefits. 

"We arrived at this point because the manufacturers concocted a genuinely awful formula, and Dorna responded. A new formula is necessary. Something similar to what the MSMA wanted 15 years ago, "

I thought MSMA was the manufacturers? So what they concocted is no good but what they wanted 15 years ago (but didn't get?) would fix everything? IMHO MSMA is the problem, not the solution. Perhaps DORNA should try to get them to just produce engines and let the teams design/make/buy the rest? Kind of like MOTO2 but with any engine they like. No wings, no flaps, no electronic gimmickry = traction-control in the right wrist, ABS in the right hand, wheelie-control in the backside, etc.

It's about details and nuance. 

Fifteen years ago, the MSMA saw the writing on the wall. They knew emissions regulations were coming, and they wanted a formula that focused on fuel restriction. Unfortunately, the MSMA chose to regulate MotoGP via fuel capacity limitation. Not sure how such a ludicrous error was ratified, considering that we have the benefit of looking back at Group C endurance racing, but the outcome was inevitable. Huge sums of money would be spent simulating every track and then programming position specific electronics to use fuel or conserve fuel where it had the best impact on lap time. Furthermore, the tires would be redesigned for increasingly higher cornerspeeds to decrease lap time with less energy loss from braking. The bikes would not be slower. The engine speeds would definitely rise. The costs would spiral out of control. Hell would break loose. 

The MSMA had the right idea, but the wrong formula. Fuel capacity limitation is not the only way to limit fuel or control engine performance. F1, for instance, uses fuel flow limiting, which allows for more specificity than liters per race. A fuel flow formula would allow the manufacturers a great deal of leeway regarding cylinder design and combustion efficiency. This is useful for the production market. 

Dorna are using the formula for a different purpose. It appears they want to decouple MotoGP from the production market. So they make an 81mm 1000cc formula where many manufacturers can be competitive. They want to spectacle to raise revenues, and then somewhere down the line they would probably push for budget caps, such that commercial rights revenue cover the cost of competing and no one can pull a Suzuki. It's an entertaining show, but it does not generate enough revenue to keep GP cost neutral. Not even close. 

Many competing ideas and concepts

Well, that's all relative.

It's evidently not almost useless. It's a very successful international sporting series. In recent years it has produced arguably the most exciting, closest racing in history. Even in 2019, the year of Marquez's complete dominance, the field was full of battles. It's dangerous, yet weekend after weekend people get to watch riders doing this from every angle possible, super slow mo, 360 camera, multi-camera displays, heart rate monitors, John Malkovich etc. PI 2017 race actually happened without injury.

Or maybe from a technical point of view it's too restrictive or not related to street but most people don't care what's inside the 'black box'. Myself, I find the technical side interesting, I also love the history of the sport but when I'm watching a race I really don't think about it and it's been many a year since I spotted Roberts or Lawson on the grid. The fact is most people don't care about anything other than the action which their eyes convey on that day. For enjoying a sporting event, that's normal. MotoGP has been very successful, still is. Two bikes less.

They have a maximum limit of 10 bar and 50 litres per hour but I'm not sure how removing this maximum limit helps eek out fuel efficiency. I think to some extent it's possible to be in a room with 20 doors but because door 'A' is nailed shut therefore there's 'no doors'. I know they banned variable valve timing and lift which are hydraulicly or electrically driven, I never quite understood why but they do not define how a mechanism should be, just what it cannot include. The spec ECU must be the spec ECU but you do what you want with it. It's a spec 'app' but not spec parameter, it doesn't give solutions, just the means to solve.

I don't know what benefits from motogp engines have reached down to road bikes but I think they must learn a lot. A handful of engines from the fastest circuit bikes last a whole season. Fuel used per km over the season I think put the M1 engine as the most efficient engine produced by Yamaha globally a few years ago.

That's the 'sticky thing' I mentioned. It doesn't really make sense to say 'you're not doing well because you're doing well'. If it's rubbish then it will not attract money, bike manufacturers will be less willing to spend, it will be cheaper to compete, problem solved.....oh.

"People don't care about the technical side of racing" is an argument that can be successfully deployed when the commercial rights revenues are enough to cover the cost of competition. MotoGP cannot make that argument yet. Even after 10 years of 1000cc 81mm competition, and expanding the calendar, Dorna is not getting the bills paid for the factories. If MotoGP is leaning on manufacturer investment, the manufacturers need to be receiving something in return. It is said that Honda and Yamaha are happy selling a few million scooters in Indo. Not sure how long that will last, and unsure how reliable Aprilia and KTM will be. 

Removing the fuel pressure and flow specifications aren't really the issue. The manufacturers need to be experimenting with cylinder displacement, bore, stroke, firing order, valve train, cylinder count, etc. The current formula permits very little of those development parameters. The manufacturers are spending money on MotoGP, but some of the most valuable development for the production market is effectively banned.

Perhaps Dorna has made the argument that the new SBK rules allow for those types of developments, but, theoretically, the production laboratory is supposed to be MotoGP.

I think what the average MotoGP fan cares about has nothing to do with Dorna's financial situation. You could have everybody caring about flame fronts or nobody caring but wanting to attend or watch races and the receipts are the same. The sponsor exposure is the same, the same number of tickets are sold, the same number of subscribers. Now, "People don't care about the technical side of racing" is obviously a huge generalisation. Some will care a great deal, some not at all and between many shades of interest. However, my impression is that the average fan doesn't care much beyond top trumps. They are completely unaware of bore limits or fuel flow limits. Maybe they discuss inline/V4 and possibly don't even know the difference. Not all, some, it's inevitable.

Myself, I am aware of the technical side but don't really care much about it, I only care that the end result is good. Recent years haven't disappointed. I do like the good old days also, always been a fan of the 500's, first bikes I remember watching. Take a random year, 1987, Mamola winning the opening race by...42 seconds. An outlier obviously. The next race was tighter, a full 19 seconds closer. It wasn't all like that, they did have close finishes also but hmmm pretty common. I'd watch it regardless but most wont which is why they didn't.

If Dorna is to cover the teams bills they will need a lot more bums on seats and as these people are not currently fans of the sport then I guess they aren't too interested. It is all about entertainment, they will not gain new followers with explanations of engine internals.

However, as always, I am fallible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_consensus_effect

If MotoGP can learn anything from F1 it is how to make such a big saleable show from something so utterly dull.

I enjoy where you went with this. The topic itself is a tad dreary and out of my knowledge. 

We will do fine without Suzuki as a sport. I will miss the bike terribly, a nearly magic formula. 

I have no idea where the whole circus is headed in terms of business, very happy to be along for the ride.

Speaking of Mamola, I haven't seen nor heard from him for a while. I miss his two seater Ducati rides from years ago. People would come off that thing speechless or spilling words, huge eyes, odd smiles and shaking hands. Remember Michael Jordan going out? He was HUGE. Alpinestars had to buy extra cows. I like Randy. 

Believe it or not, I think Hamamatsu brass decided to do the GP axe this way. "Just announce to the Team we quit right before we go on a week of vacation. Dorna can try to chase us for anything else."

He/she just packs their stuff and leaves. The other will have to figure it out and move on. Some things just have to end. 

So, two grid spots are Dorna's. They will go to a new team, likely not a big surprise amongst a handful poised. Raz's outfit has soured on Yamaha after 2021's ass for supper and is also in flux re 2023 plans. Tea leaves of course say that one of those teams runs Aprilias, the other Yamaha. 

Remaining curious that this may be the second sign here about a rapidly changing economic climate. We could lose another independent team. Rules may change again to reduce costs. 

Yet still, we ride. Thank goodness.

I agree. The average fan doesn't care about Dorna's finances. Allowing manufacturers to have more control over combustion chamber design, probably won't add a significant increase in viewership. 

But neither of these items are the fundamental issue. Whether fans care or not, the manufacturers are investing tens of millions to play. If they are putting shareholder money into the sport, there will be a list of demands regarding MotoGP's purpose, and the specter for manufacturer withdrawal will always loom. 

If Dorna could cover the manufacturers investment, but that's not going to happen unless viewership doubles or triples. That's not going to happen anytime soon so if Dorna wants to avoid more manufacturers losing interest, they'll need to change the cost-benefit. Changing the formula is one possibility. 

There had been a lot of stories and talk.  But aren’t we still waiting for the official statement of Suzuki themselves ??
 

I shouldn’t think that went down well in camp Rins. The ongoing silence makes me think even more that this is a gambit, but one that could go horribly wrong for Suzuki if so, costing them both of their riders and top staff. Either that or one part of Suzuki has acted unilaterally and there’s a corporate poo-fest going on internally to figure out the next steps. 

Some head office genius might have had what they thought of as good enough financial reasons for making the call, but I would be not be surprised they had not properly considered the contractual issues that it raised with DORNA, and the potential fallout if not litigation with others, including the riders. One imagines that some poor soul in their communications division is busy trying to make this look a respectable state of affairs. And good luck with that. In any event it reeks of incompetence, if not bad faith, to have said nothing official and substantive so far. I agree with Buddykitchen's sentiments on the matter.

They would get more bang for their yen in WSBK. Maybe they'll go there. When were they last there? This doesn't mean I'm not sad for the situation. Poor form on Suzuki's part. 

I can't see the "exclusive commercial and television rights holders" going to an awful lot of effort to lay out the welcome mat.

 

Interesting interview with Rivola on the website Marca. When asked about the renewal with Espargararo, he responded:

Aleix's renewal will surely come. As I always say, I don't see Aleix anywhere else and I don't see Aprilia without Aleix. Aleix is ​​our captain, as we call him, he has brought Aprilia this far and it is only right that he continues with us. It is correct that Aprilia acknowledges this.

On the subject of Vinales' future:

Q. Regarding Maverick Viñales, will he continue with Aprilia?

A. Maverick needs time.
P. But in sport in general and in MotoGP there is usually not much time.

R. Yes, there is not much time here, but we have time for him. It is he who does not give himself time. That is something he has to understand. For my part, I am convinced you do not have to fix so many things. The first thing he has to do is fix the third free practice, which he almost did. In Jerez, for example, he didn't make it to Q2 for a number of unfortunate reasons, such as the fact that he ran into several yellow flags and could only do one lap at full throttle, but, little by little, he will get there.

Rivola comes across as a really good guy. All quotes translated from Spanish.

 

 

Give them a break, they had Casey so they know its all about the rider. Once they have 8 bikes on the grid odds are at least 1 rider will take the title on the greatest motorcycle ever to grace tarmac:)

Unless... you really want a single rider type machine, else your other riders are too competitive on the same machinery and take away points from your one good shot. Just recently, think Q on the Yammy, Marquez on the old Honda, dare I say Espargaro on the Aprilia... In times of very close grids 1st to last, it may actually make some sense. Would need to do a risk/reward analysis.