American Honda somewhat surprisingly announced that it will withdraw its factory team from participation in the 2009 AMA Roadracing Series. The current world economic downturn was cited as the reason for the withdrawal, but the transparency of that explanation is all too obvious. The continuing turmoil between the American subsidiaries of the Japanese manufacturers and the Daytona Motorsports Group (new owners of AMA racing) hasn't abated despite numerous attempts to come to some sort of agreement, and American Honda's official withdrawal signals the first real casualty of that long-simmering feud. Only Yamaha has stated its intentions (however unofficially) to compete with a factory team in the new AMA series, with Honda (well, previously at least), Suzuki and Kawasaki adamantly refusing and threatening to start a breakaway series due to disagreements with the final AMA rules package released recently.
What makes American Honda's decision a bit surprising is that its factory squad recently participated in the annual winter Daytona tire test (where factory teams usually get the opportunity to not only prepare for Bike Week, but to also shake down next year's equipment). American Honda rider Neil Hodgson reported that the new more restrictive rules seemed to suit the CBR1000RR better, and he left the test as the quickest rider overall by a significant margin. While Honda hadn't committed to the new AMA series, and Hodgson was the only rider (longtime Honda stalwart Miguel Duhamel's contract expired in '08), their appearance at the tire test was seen as a possible compromise in position, as both Kawasaki and Suzuki refused to take part.
Interestingly,Hodgson still has a year left on his contract, and it is unknown what his plans are, or whether Honda intends to release him from that contract so that he can ride elsewhere. Unfortunately, all of the teams in racing series around the world have already solidified their rider lineups, so Hodgson will have a difficult time finding another ride for '09.
Honda stated that it will continue to support the satellite Erion Honda and Corona Honda racing teams, as well as its factory motocross and supercross race teams.
Will we only see one factory team in AMA racing next year? Does it really matter if factory teams and their star riders participate? What do you think of this mess? Let us know your thoughts.