Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Yoshimura is stepping away from the paddock, despite being the main Suzuki team in America since the 70's and amassing 212 wins and 14 championships in the AMA Superbike class. They are not ending their relationship with Suzuki, but rather taking a breather from MotoAmerica.
Kerry Graeber, Suzuki’s vice president of sales and marketing stated that the Suzuki Yoshimura relationship remains strong. “Though Yoshimura won’t be operating our road racing team moving forward, we look forward to continuing together in many other aspects of our business.” Graeber noted that Yoshimura remains integral with JGR/Suzuki, the company’s supercross/motocross race team, as well as several sales and marketing programs. Graeber sees that not only continuing, but also possibly expanding.
Don Sakakura, President of Yoshimura R&D commented on the unparalleled relationship between Suzuki and Yoshimura that spanned some four decades: “Yoshimura’s partnership with Suzuki has been instrumental to our core business the past 41 years,” said Sakakura. “As a team, we accomplished tremendous racing milestones, leaving behind many special celebrations, as well as setbacks. Personally, it has been a true privilege to have worked closely with management and staff at Suzuki. The friendships I’ve developed will carry over my lifetime. Notably, the engineering team at Suzuki’s Japan headquarters has been extremely significant in our successes over the years.”
The good news is that Team Hammer moves into the Suzuki spotlight after racing more than 30 years with the brand already.
"Not something we sought or expected, but when asked if we could do it, we said yes," Team Hammer's John Ulrich told me via telephone. Ulrich also stated this on Facebook adding: "Big respect and all the best to the Yoshimura family and everybody who contributed to Yoshimura racing's fantastic history in AMA Superbike over the years. They're still in AMA/FIM motocross building engines for JGR. Yoshimura Japan is still involved in Japanese Superbike and World Endurance and other series and I am sure we'll see more great things from Yoshimura in the future."
It should not have been too much of a surprise for Ulrich with Supersport rider Bobby Fong taking home the title on a Team Hammer Suzuki and Alex Dumas doing the same in the Twins Cup. With factory support in the paddock dwindling it makes sense that Suzuki would eventually downsize their program, and Team Hammer's (going on) 40 years of uninterrupted racing efforts had to have made a bit of an impact in the decision making process.
Who's going to get to ride the Superbike(s) and Stock 1000(s) for Team Hammer? No decisions have been made yet. Team Hammer has a knack for rider selection whether it is grabbing the up and comers like Dumas, or helping veterans like Fong continue their careers, so I am very excited to see what is in store for next season.