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Downturn blamed as Kawasaki quit MotoGP

  • Story Highlights
  • Kawasaki quit MotoGP circuit blaming global economic downturn for decision
  • Kawasaki joined other Japanese manufacturers in pulling out of motorsport
  • John Hopkins and Marco Melandri due to ride for Kawasaki in the 2009 season
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(CNN) -- MotoGP is the latest branch of motorsport to be hit by the global economic downturn as Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki ended a week of speculation by withdrawing their team.

American John Hopkins rode for Kawasaki in the 2008 season with limited success.

American John Hopkins rode for Kawasaki in the 2008 season with limited success.

Aside from a brief spell in the 1970s, Kawasaki have been mainstays of motorcycling's elite category but will not be supporting a work's line-up in the 2009 season.

"Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd announced today (Friday) that it has decided to suspend its factory MotoGP racing activities from the 2009 season," read a statement.

"In a quick-changing business environment, Kawasaki has been promptly taking measures to cope with the situation," it added.

Kawasaki are following the trend set by Honda announcing last month they were quitting Formula One and Subaru and Suzuki withdrawing from the world rally championship.

While the sums of money in MotoGP are much smaller compared to Formula One, it is believed Kawasaki spent upwards of $40 million per year in running a Dutch-based team.

American John Hopkins and Italian Marco Melandri were due to ride for Kawasaki next season. Hopkins finished 16th in last year's overall standings while Melandri transferred from Ducati after a difficult season.

Kawasaki were founder members when the former 500cc world championship was rebranded as MotoGP in 2002, but have never topped the podium.

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