Honda To Miss Suzuka 8 Hours, But 'Won't Quit MotoGP'
Honda's withdrawal from Formula 1 earlier this year unleashed a wave of bad news - and a tsunami of speculation - about the fates of the teams in all forms of motorcycle racing. Despite all the speculation, the only real casualty - so far - has been Kawasaki. But after the Honda announcement of it's F1 exit, there were even stories that the Japanese motoring giant could pull out of MotoGP. The world awaited breathlessly as Honda CEO Takeo Fukui's press conference came and went, and gave a sigh of relief when no mention was made of MotoGP. Motorcyle racing was safe.
Or so it seemed. Yesterday, a Honda spokeswoman announced that they would be cutting back on their motorcycle racing program, including withdrawing their factory team from the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour race. This news is in itself remarkable, as this event is the high point of the Japanese motorcycle racing season, and a race at which the rivalry between the Japanese factories reaches its zenith. Winning the Suzuka 8 Hours is an absolute necessity, to all of the Japanese Big Four.
So important is the race that the factories always draft in their major stars from around the world to participate, often as a "reward" for outstanding performance. The riders don't always see racing at Suzuka as a reward - the race takes place in July, in the middle of the summer break for the world championship series, right after the busiest period of the year - but they take it as an honor to be invited. Most of the big names have raced their over the years, and the 2008 race was won by Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari.
Honda's withdrawal does not mean that there will be no Hondas on the grid. Only the factory team won't race this year, but the Honda spokeswoman told the press that they would still help the remaining teams on Hondas: "We are continuing to supply machines to other teams," she told the press.
The one piece of good news from the announcement was confirmation of Honda's commitment to MotoGP. Honda "won't quit the MotoGP," she said, adding that though Honda would be scaling back its support for motorcycle racing in general, the one series this would not affect would be MotoGP.