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More sponsorship bad luck for Nicky Hayden | EVENTS

Sponsorship woes hit the headlines at Qatar in the days before the race, as the Aspar MotoGP team – fielding Nicky Hayden and class rookie Eugene Laverty on “Open” production Hondas

Ripped off their Drive M7 stickers, and announced their expected backing had been cancelled at the last minute.

“We got the information only two days ago, by email,” said team owner Jorge “Aspar” Martinez, speaking through an interpreter on Thursday, the day practice for the opening round began.

It was the culmination of a confusing chain of events, after the team’s first invoice to the Malaysian energy drink sponsor was issued in February, but remained unpaid in March. “Now they said they will not continue,” said Martinez.

This was unexpected, because the original contract, beginning last season, was for three years, but there had been a get-out clause set for last September, that had not been exercised at the time.


But the waters were further muddied by rumours that the team had known about the potential withdrawal for some time, because of the failure to secure a European distributor for the energy drink. It was suggested that the delay in the announcement was to increase the shock value, and strengthen Aspar’s hand in seeking financial support from Dorna.

Either way, Martinez revealed that Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta “is helping me. Next week we have many meetings, and we hope to find a new sponsor before the next race in Texas,” in two weeks.

Aspar is a highly successful team manager, running in all three classes under various banners. He joined MotoGP in 2010, and last year switched from Aprilia to Honda with Drive M7, running Nicky Hayden and Hiro Aoyama.

“The results were not good, but this is not the reason for the withdrawal,” he said. The amount of the lost sponsorship was “around two million Euros,” according to a team spokesman.

The bikes appeared with the sponsor’s name replaced by “Team Aspar”.

Meanwhile, Honda’s LCR team rocked by money laundering scandal

The other big money question hung over Lucio Cecchinello’s LCR team, expanded to two riders this year with the acquisition of title sponsorship from London on-line foreign exchange firm CWM FX, after 13 of the financial institution’s staff including big boss Anthony Constantinou were arrested by City of London police on suspicion of money laundering and fraud.

The LCR team runs Cal Crutchlow on a Factory Option Honda RC213V, and class rookie Jack Miller on an Open category RC213V-RS production version.


CWM had been offering five percent interest per month to investors, and a police spokesman said the arrests were “to stop what we believe was ongoing criminality, and prevent people putting their money into CWM’s managed funds.”

It is far from clear how this affects the on-line foreign exchange side of CWM’s business, and how it will affect the sponsorship; but significantly the firm’s web site was promptly taken off line.

It is believed that a significant chunk of the sponsorship has already been paid to the team, believed to be the first two million Euros of a total of some six million.

While no guilt has been proved and all those arrested have been released on bail until September, there is the chance that fraud officers may seek the return of at least some of these funds, should investors require compensation for losses.

Anthony Constantinou

Team owner Lucio Cecchinello was consequently guarded in his comments when interviewed, but said: “What is happening at CWM is not my concern, and I have no comments about the company. We are a racing team, and we normally fulfil our obligations. We have been in the paddock for 20 years, and we are serious people.”

Asked if he could afford to continue this season, he said: “From our side, I have no doubt we will do all 18 races, and finish the season with two riders.”

He had only heard of the problem “at the end of last week”, and he would be discussing the situation with his legal advisers upon return to Europe.

In the meantime, “the lawyers have advised me to leave the advertising on the bikes.” Thus the CWM logos remained … at least for now.

Constantinou arrived in Qatar the day before the race.

The team was launched at a lavish free-spending party in an exclusive club in London. CWM also sponsors the London Boat Show, a Rugby League club, and has a “partnership” with Chelsea Football Club.

Constantinou’s background is tinged with controversial tragedy. His father Aristos Constantinou, founder of successful fashion business Ariella, was shot to death at close range in his London mansion in 1985 in an unsolved crime, dubbed “the Silver Bullet murder”.