Californian John Hopkins has confirmed reports that Kawasaki may be on the verge of pulling out of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, though he hasn’t heard anything official at this point.
“I heard it’s up in the air, but I haven’t heard anything confirmed yet,” Hopkins said from his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California, today. “I got some calls from the team manager [Michael Bartholemy] and he said that everything could be up in the air as to whether they run it or not, but nothing has been confirmed. I don’t know what it would do to me. I’m really not sure. I’ve been talking to my managers and seeing what the plan is and they’ve been on the phone to Japan trying to figure it out as well. Right now I’m still contracted to them so I’m not sure what the plan is.”
According to reports from Europe, an announcement could come as soon as January 5.
The move would not only affect Hopkins but his new teammate Marco Melandri. It would also mean that just 17 bikes would be on the grid for the season opener in Qatar on April 12.
Hopkins ended the 2008 championship in 16th place after suffering with myriad of injuries. His teammate Anthony West was worse off, ending the season 18th on the ZX-RR.
The news is surprising only in the fact that the team recently completed two off-season tests in Valencia, Spain and Phillip Island, Australia, as it prepared to start the season with a new 2009 version of the ZX-RR. Given the current economic situation, however, the news is not that surprising. Add in the fact that the AMA Superbike team is still unsure of its plans for 2009 and you begin to see that Kawasaki might be on the verge of some serious cutbacks.