Is Suzuki ending its MotoGP project to focus on motocross?

The decision of Suzuki to leave MotoGP has come as a shock to pretty much everyone, but perhaps there is now some insight on what they might do next. 

Alex Rins, 2022 Jerez IRTA MotoGP test. [credit: www.suzuki-racing.com].

SUZUKI’s decision to leave the MotoGP World Championship at the end of 2022 has built an impossibly high mountain of questions. 

Most of those questions will probably never be answered. One such question is, simply, why? Why would Suzuki, who have arguably the best bike on the MotoGP grid, along with one of the best team managers in the sport in Livio Suppo, and a rider line-up which is arguably the strongest in the championship in Joan Mir and Alex Rins, decide to leave the championship which it won 18 months ago, and which it has a decent chance of winning this year?

Alex Rins, 2022 Jerez IRTA MotoGP test. [credit: www.suzuki-racing.com].

Well, we may have our answer, courtesy of the PulpMX Show.

On this week’s PulpMX Show, Steve Matthes said, “I got a text, from someone that would know, that said that Suzuki went hard after AC (Adam Cianciarulo) for next year, and they are putting money back into [motocross] racing.”

Suzuki’s attempts to sign Cianciarulo away from his long-time home at Kawasaki were obviously unsuccessful, as Cianciarulo is rumoured to have re-signed to stay on-board a KX450 for 2023. But, that the attempt was made is a sign that Suzuki could be making a serious attempt to come back to motocross. 

Suzuki left the Motocross World Championship as a factory effort in 2018, and the closing of the JGRMX team at the end of 2020 meant the end of any kind of factory Suzuki effort in America, with the Twisted Tea HEP Suzuki team taking over from JGR since 2021 as the lead US Suzuki team. But, if Suzuki are making moves for a big name like Cianciarulo, their intentions must be serious. 

Justin Bogle, 2022 Denver Supercross. [credit: www.suzuki-racing.com]

MotoGP is a very expensive sport. The technology is on a level which is not replicated in any other two-wheeled series, and that combined with the number of people which need to be paid, and for whom accommodation, food et cetera needs to be paid for, and the costs become monumental. Now, Suzuki is probably about to find out how expensive it is to leave MotoGP, both financially and legally (which are also not mutually exclusive), judging by yesterday’s (3 May 2022) statement from Dorna

However, if it saves money in the long term, perhaps Suzuki is prepared to redirect that money in other areas, like superbike racing or motocross. Perhaps both superbikes and motocross can be competitively supported by Suzuki while also making a saving on what it costs to run in MotoGP. If that is the case, then perhaps a renewed factory motocross effort will not be the only positive result from Suzuki’s MotoGP withdrawal. 

And, of course, while there is rumour about a US-based revitalisation for Suzuki’s motocross efforts, there is nothing yet at all about a European equivalent. If it is down to costs, then ultimately America is the more lucrative market, so perhaps there will continue to be nothing from Suzuki in MXGP. However, it is also possible to take the view of ‘no news is good news.’

Suzuki has never been the largest manufacturer in MotoGP, and their 2020 premier class triumph will always be one of the greatest examples of ‘punching above your weight.’ It will be interesting to see what the Hamamatsu brand does next, and if it means they are back at a factory level in motocross, then at least their MotoGP exit will be able to be viewed in a positive light.