Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Ben Spies will not be racing a Rizla Suzuki in the 2009 MotoGP World Championship.
That was confirmed when the team announced they'd re-signed current teammates Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi "for a further season," according to a team press release.
Rumors about Spies going to the Gresini Honda team also appear to be incorrect, according to a Honda spokesperson.
That leaves very few options since most of the teams are set. Among those with seats available are Alice Team Ducati, which hopes to retain Toni Elias, and JiR Team Scot, which will break into two teams in 2009, though it's unlikely both will get MotoGP support from Honda.
The text of the Rizla Suzuki press release follows:
Capirossi and Vermeulen to continue with Suzuki in 2009
Suzuki Motor Corporation are pleased to announce that Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen have both agreed terms to continue riding for the Japanese company’s MotoGP squad for a further season.
Capirossi joined Suzuki at the end of 2007 and has shown throughout the 2008 season that his energy and enthusiasm for racing are still as high as ever. Indeed, his desire to compete for Suzuki at the highest level of motorcycle racing has seen him race this season with serious injuries that would have side-lined many other riders. Capirossi’s wealth of knowledge and experience has been invaluable to the development of the Suzuki GSV-R during this year, both in a racing and developmental role, and he is determined to turn Suzuki’s 800cc prototype machine into a race-winning bike during the remainder of 2008 and through 2009.
Capirossi comes from Bologna in Italy and began Grand Prix racing in 1990. He has won World Championship titles in both the 125cc class (twice) and the 250cc categories. He still holds the record for becoming the youngest ever World Champion and also the record for the longest winning career in Grand Prix racing, a time-span of over 17 years from his first victory (125cc – Great Britain, 1990) to his most recent (MotoGP – Japan, 2007). He has also just broken the record for the most starts at Grand Prix events, an amazing 277 races. Capirossi has achieved 99 podiums and 41 pole positions in all categories throughout his career – totals he is determined to add to whilst riding with Suzuki.
Vermeulen joined Suzuki at the Valencia test in 2005 – having finished as runner-up in the World Superbike Championship that year – and made his racing debut at Jerez in 2006. He achieved his first pole-position in Turkey that year and followed up with his debut podium in Suzuki colours at his home Grand Prix in Australia later that same season. Vermeulen then created history for Suzuki by becoming the first winner for the famous Japanese marque in the four-stroke era, when he raced to a stunning wet-weather victory at Le Mans in France in 2007 – a season that also saw him take three further podiums, one pole-position and two front-row starts. So far in 2008 Vermeulen has had back-to-back podiums in Germany and America and currently sits in sixth place in the riders’ championship.
Vermeulen hails from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. The 26-year-old Australian races with the crossed number seven on his bike, a number made famous by the late Suzuki great Barry Sheene. Vermeulen began road-racing in 1998 – after winning a number of Dirt Track championships – where he was soon spotted by Sheene who persuaded Vermeulen to leave his home and race in the UK in 2000. Vermeulen spent two years racing Superstock and Supersport classes in Britain before moving to the World Supersport Championship, a title that he won in 2003. Since making the switch to MotoGP, Vermeulen has become a very popular member of the Suzuki team and a highly respected rider amongst his peers and fans alike.
‘I am delighted to be staying with Suzuki for another season. I have really enjoyed my short time here and know we are making progress and can be on top again. The management has shown faith in me - even though I have not been at my best due to my injuries - and now I must start to re-pay them for their belief in me and to committing to me a further season. I have enjoyed working with Paul and my whole crew has been fantastic all season, whatever I have asked for they have delivered and they are probably the hardest working guys in the paddock. I still have unfinished business in MotoGP and on the Suzuki, I still have podiums, pole positions and race wins in me and I believe that I can achieve that with this team. I want to finish my career with Suzuki and I want to do that in style!”
“I’m extremely happy to be staying with the Suzuki team, it is a factory and squad that I know well and respect enormously. Over the last three years there has been big progress with both the machine and with my level as a rider. Suzuki was my entry into Grand Prix racing, I have been here for three years and won a GP - and been on podium many times – so I am really pleased to be continuing this relationship. I had offers from other teams, but I always felt that I wanted to stay with Suzuki if we could get the terms agreed so that everyone was happy. Luckily we were able to do that, so now I can get on with trying to win more races and help Suzuki get to a World Championship challenging level.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“We are of course pleased to have finalised the rider agreements for 2009 and to move forward with Loris and Chris. Loris’s experience, knowledge and determination are a valuable asset to any team, but on top of that you get his incredible and infectious passion for racing - plus he’s a really nice guy as well! He settled in to the team very quickly and now it feels like he has been with us for a long time, not less than a year! He still has a great desire to be the best and Suzuki will be doing all it can over the forthcoming months and throughout 2009 to help him achieve that goal. His input in the development of the GSV-R has been a big factor this year and I am sure this contribution will help both Loris and Chris to see Suzuki fighting with the best riders in the 2009 World Championship.
“Chris has improved as the Suzuki GSV-R has improved, and has now become an integral part of the development process of the bike. He has been with the team for three years and has become Suzuki’s most successful four-stroke racer yet, as well as being an ultra-professional sportsman. I don’t think we have seen Chris’s true potential yet - the whole factory and the team are convinced the he can go on to bigger and better things with Suzuki, and we are delighted to have him with us again.”