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GP Week : Issue 71
SUBARU and Suzuki at the end of 2008, Mitsubishi in 2009. The final decision of these companies to quit Rallying was made by their Presidents and, as usual, Japanese companies put the withdrawal down to stockholders. The main reason for their withdrawal was given as the current economic situation. But was STI happy with Prodrive? The truth is that almost all Japanese companies only want to compete alongside other Japanese companies. They do not want to stay on as the ONLY company. Mazda and Datsun/Nissan ended up quitting rallying because of a lack of good results. Remember that Mazda had a problem with engines not being the full 2- litre size. Mazda had already been in serious trouble with FIA because of homologation fraud, but also we never fully discovered if they were happy with Mr Warmbold. Datsun/ Nissan were embarrassed because they badly misjudged the design of world championship cars (GTI-R) and made a mess of running the team arrogantly. And, of course, let's not forget that Toyota, before F1, was involved in Rallying. They were world champions, but were banned for 12 months for running illegal turbo restrictors. Their final model (Corolla WRC) was justified to the company as a programme to boost the sales of production Corolla cars. It was a new approach, but it flopped. At all previous times, Toyota rally cars were justified as boosting the 'sporty image' of the company. I think they stopped because they had misjudged their strategy. THE news of Bridgestone's decision to quit F1 sent a frisson through MotoGP: the same company's contract for single tyre supply to the premier bike class began this year, and has two more years to run. The company has promised to see it through, but after that? Motorcycle racing is more in thrall to the Japanese factories than any other major motor sport, and vice versa. The roots of all the companies run very deep. But Honda in particular has pulled out before, in the late 60s and for more than 10 years; Kawasaki quit at the start of this year. Yamaha and Suzuki both cut back elsewhere to preserve full MotoGP teams ... for the present, anyway. The factories don't need to go racing, and in the end racing doesn't need the factories. As long as there are still some motorbikes to race. Bike GP racing was once huge in Japan, but the interest proved somewhat faddish: a crowd of 41,533 at Motegi this year is far short of the great days at Suzuka in the 1980s and 1990s. It is once again a minority sport, and it is the factories that make sure there is still at least one GP in Japan every year. Honda even built the circuit upon which it takes place. Japan and Rallying Martin Holmes Japan and MotoGP -- Michael Scott MotoGP crowds have dwindled in Japan since the 80s and 90s F1 INSIGHT >> 35