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Kawasaki pull out of MotoGP to cut costs

KAWASAKI have pulled out of motorcycling's MotoGP world championship as part of the company's efforts to cut spending amid the global financial crisis.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd today became Japan's latest motorsport casualty after a trio of the country's carmakers announced similar plans last month.

The worldwide economic downturn was blamed for Honda's withdrawal from Formula One and the exit of Subaru and Suzuki from the world rally championship.

"We took the final decision not to continue in MotoGP yesterday," Kawasaki's Katsuhiro Sato told Reuters. "It is something we have been considering since mid-December.

"In the current economic climate and unless the situation improves it is difficult to say if we will return."

Kawasaki had competed in motorcycling's premier class since the 2003 season with annual costs of around 4 billion yen (US$43.8 million).

Slumping car sales due to the credit crunch ended the Formula One ambitions of Honda, who scored just 20 points in the last two seasons despite an estimated annual budget of over US$300 million.

Suzuki and former winners Subaru then left the world rally championship, leaving Citroen and cash-strapped Ford as the only manufacturers in next year's title race.

Toyota, who have yet to win a Formula One grand prix since their debut in 2002, are the last Japanese manufacturer still standing in the two main FIA-backed world championships.

Kawasaki have felt the bite with sales of bikes in the United States and Europe badly hit by the economic slump, but they have also struggled on the track.

Dutch-based Kawasaki Motors Racing failed to win in MotoGP, their best result French rider Randy de Puniet's second place in Japan in 2007.

Rivals Yamaha, who won last year's MotoGP championship with Italian Valentino Rossi, told Reuters they would compete in the 2009 season and had no plans to leave the sport.

Honda and Suzuki will also continue to participate in MotoGP despite their recent troubles, Honda providing six bikes and Suzuki two.

Kawasaki's 2009 line-up would have been American John Hopkins and Italian Marco Melandri, who had just switched from Ducati.

"Everything is up in the air and people want answers," Hopkins had said on his website ( before the announcement.

Kawasaki's departure, assuming their two bikes are not taken on by an independent team, leaves the MotoGP grid with 17 riders. Points are awarded down to 15th place.


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