Mike Stevens | Jan 3, 2009

With Honda pulling the plug on its F1 team, and Subaru and Suzuki doing the same in the World Rally Championship, factory teams in top level motorsport around the world seem to be dropping like flies.

This week, it looks like the bike world isn’t safe either, with Kawasaki expected to announce its withdrawal from MotoGP in 2009.

Autosport.com is reporting that sources at Kawasaki have confirmed 'off the record' that the Japanese bike maker will announce on January 5th its plans to exit the MotoGP series – the world’s premier motorcycle racing class – this year.

While there’s no word yet on exactly why Kawasaki plans to withdraw from MotoGP, it’s a safe bet that the words “global economic crisis” will be uttered more than a few times come January 5th.

Factory team riders Marco Melandri and John Hopkins will perhaps be the worst hit by this news if it is confirmed – and Kawasaki has yet to come forward and deny the rumours to either the public, or to the riders themselves.

"I have to wait and hear some words, as at the moment I hear nothing," Melandri told autosport.com.

"If it is true, then I can only hope that when I wake up on January 1st it is all a nightmare."

Marco-Melandri

Kawasaki seemed plagued lately, with Hopkins riding with injuries and the ZX-RR suffering handling problems. Perhaps worst of all is Melandri’s case, with the former GP-winner only just having joined the team.

With its team yet to achieve a victory in MotoGP, it’s perhaps little surprise that Kawasaki has opted to cut its losses. The closest the team has come to the top podium step since the brand’s return to MotoGP in 2003 has been second place finishes at Montegi in 2007 (Randy de Puniet), Assen in 2006 (Shinya Nakano), and Shanghai in 2005 (Olivier Jacque).

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