The MotoGP paddock is regularly awash in various levels of rumor—some of which are worth paying attention to, and some of which aren’t. When rumblings about the Suzuki MotoGP team wanting to pull out at the end of the 2022 season started trickling out at the beginning of May, they were awfully hard to ignore. Although nothing was official yet, Dorna Sports issuing a public statement reminding Suzuki that it couldn’t make such a decision on its own only threw more fuel on what was already a fire of significant size.
On May 12, 2022, Suzuki Motor Corporation officially announced that it is now in talks with Dorna “regarding the possibility of ending its participation in MotoGP at the end of 2022.” Why would Suzuki suddenly be champing at the bit to get out of MotoGP, particularly after Joan Mir’s 2020 riders’ championship win with the team, not to mention the recent contract signing to stay in the paddock until 2026?
The official reason Suzuki gave in its official announcement is short, direct, and to the point. It reads, “Unfortunately, the current economical [sic] situation and the need to concentrate its effort on the big changes that the Automotive [sic] world is facing in these years, are forcing Suzuki to shift costs and human resources to develop new technologies.”
Could this sudden about-face on the admittedly not-small expense of fielding a factory MotoGP race team have anything to do with the recent Suzuki diesel engine defeat device scandal that led investigators in multiple European countries to conduct raids at the end of April? That’s not clear, but it also doesn’t feel like a huge stretch to read that in between the lines of the official statement. While Suzuki pulled out of the car market in the U.S. several years ago, it’s still a major automotive manufacturer in much of the rest of the world.
According to Reuters, searches in Germany, Italy, and Hungary were conducted in April by European criminal justice cooperation agency Eurojust “to counter the use of faulty emission devices in engines, used in cars of a Japanese producer” later revealed to be Suzuki. Along with the Japanese car maker, Stellantis and Marelli were also implicated and under investigation. Spokespeople for all three companies told Reuters that they were cooperating with the investigating authorities in these matters.
What happens next is unclear, on multiple fronts. The idea of talented racers Joan Mir and Alex Rins—despite the kind of results they’ve been turning in recently—ending up without seats seems, well, wrong. What of the recently-hired, extremely experienced team manager Livio Suppo, whom the Suzuki Ecstar team welcomed a very short time ago, in February, 2022?
As ever, we’ll have to wait, watch, and listen for what happens next.