Kawasaki have pulled out of motorcycling's MotoGP world championship as part of the company's efforts to cut spending amid the global financial crisis.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd on Friday became Japan's latest motorsport casualty after a trio of the country's carmakers announced similar plans last month.
The worldwide economic downturn was blamed for Honda's withdrawal from Formula One and the exit of Subaru and Suzuki from the world rally championship.
“We took the final decision not to continue in MotoGP yesterday,” Kawasaki's Katsuhiro Sato told Reuters. “It is something we have been considering since mid-December.”
“In the current economic climate and unless the situation improves it is difficult to say if we will return.”
Kawasaki had competed in motorcycling's premier class since the 2003 season with annual costs of around ¥4 billion ($43.8 million).
Slumping car sales amid the credit crunch ended the Formula One ambitions of Honda, who scored just 20 points in the last two seasons despite an estimated annual budget of over $300 million.
Suzuki and Subaru soon followed suit, leaving Citroen and cash-strapped Ford as the only manufacturers in next year's world rally championship.
Toyota is the last Japanese manufacturer still standing in the two main FIA-backed world championships.
Kawasaki has also felt the bite with sales of its bikes in the United States and Europe badly hit by the economic slump.
Dutch-based Kawasaki Motors Racing failed to win in MotoGP, their best result French rider Randy de Puniet's second place in Japan in 2007.
Rivals Yamaha, who won last year's MotoGP championship with Italian rider Valentino Rossi, told Reuters they would compete in the 2009 season and had no plans to leave the sport.
Kawasaki's 2009 line-up would have been American John Hopkins and Italian Marco Melandri.
Their departure from the sport, assuming their two bikes are not taken on by an independent team, leaves the MotoGP grid with 17 riders. Points are awarded down to 15th place. (Reuters)