Despite being winners of the Manufacturer’s Championship in 2010 and, despite providing the bike for the Rider’s Champion in 2010, Yamaha finds itself in the strange situation of heading into the 2011 season without a naming rights sponsor. During the week, FIAT announced that it was ending the 4-year partnership, a move which caught nobody by surprise. It has always been acknowledged that FIAT’s presence owed very little to its commitment to Yamaha and almost everything to its liaison with the Italian, Rossi.
Management has been frantically searching for an alternative “big” company to fill the void, but has drawn a blank wherever they have looked so far. The main hope was pinned on the Spanish telco, Telefonica, but that was always doomed, in my opinion. Lorenzo and Telefonica have never seen eye-to-eye, the company preferring the “other” Spaniard, Dani Pedrosa.
So, with tobacco sponsorship dried up, the GFC biting hard, and the Sepang test just around the corner, could we see Yamahas in their original racing livery (see above)? And how long can the factory afford to fund the effort in-house, if a major sponsor is not found?