Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has warned Kawasaki that its ZX-RRs must race in MotoGP this season – something that is looking more likely after a subsequent revelation that factory test rider Olivier Jacque is currently on track in Australia.
Kawasaki, which officially announced that it was suspending its factory MotoGP activities on January 9, has a contract with Dorna to race in MotoGP until the end of 2011. Ezpeleta told La Gazetta dello Sport that he was willing to release Kawasaki from the final two years of that agreement, providing its bike are on the 2009 grid.
“There is an agreement until 2011, which Dorna has with all the factories,” Ezpeleta told the sportspaper. “It cannot just be discarded.
“I have told Kawasaki that I would not accept this contract being broken and, since they have said that the costs for this season are budgeted, I have proposed that they race in 2009. In exchange I will release them from 2010 and 2011.
“The problem with this is that Kawasaki says it only has engines built for 25% of the championship and that they don’t want to develop the rest. Therefore I am searching for a structure, in France, to do this for them. The final obstacle will be to get the Japanese to meet these people and agree to this scenario.”
When asked how optimistic he was of success, Ezpeleta declared “I think that it will all be resolved” then revealed that Kawasaki are testing today (Wednesday) and that he expects the current team structure to remain.
“Today Olivier Jacque is testing at Eastern Creek, in Australia. The team will continue to be managed by Michael Bartholemy and it is important to safeguard the futures of John Hopkins and Marco Melandri.”
Despite such optimism, Ezpeleta once again warned Kawasaki that it cannot simply walk away: “If Kawasaki will not race, I will take them to court.”
Those words could also be seen as warning to any other manufacturers thinking of quitting.
Ezpeleta also added that he wants a series of cost cutting measures – such as a reduction in testing, and engines that last for two or three grand prix weekends – agreed before the start of this season and is aiming to boost grid numbers to 20 riders for 2010.
Kawasaki’s apparent withdraw had reduced the 2009 MotoGP field to just 17 riders.