It's all pretty simple. In '81 Maico had bugger all money due to the 1980 model being less than brilliant and not selling that well. At the same time the Japs had a bottomless moneypit and had bought up any rider capable of finishing on the podium. Maico had lost Noyce, Neil Hudson and Heinz Kingadner in previous years to Japanese money so even though the bike was better than even the Jap works bikes, the factory couldn't afford decent riders. The same happened in the US where they had lost Magoo Chandler for the same reasons.
After Motocross Action, in the 490s first ever press test proclaimed it "the best motocross bike in history" they dealers couldn't keep up the demand. GP success didn't matter one iota to the factory when they sold more 490s in '81 than Honda sold throughout their entire range. Punters were winning their local races all over the world and that sold more bikes than winning GPs.
Even though they couldn't front a decent MXGP team, in enduros, it was a different story. At the '81 ISDE Maico won the manufacturers trophy and even though Aussie Jeff Ballard finished on a silver due to tyre problems, he blitzed the final day special motocross test ahead of team mates Franncu and Gerit Wolsink. He went on to become the greatest ISDE rider of all time and he puts the initial ipetus to his career down to the Maico being so bloody good.
Aussie importer Ross King imported far more enduro 490s than motocrossers and that is where their Aussie success lay. Laurie Alderton, Porky Eldridge, Chris Cater and many more enduro biggies won everything in sight on Maicos in '81.
Sadly itall came to an end a year later when the factory got it all wrong and released the single shock '82 model with nowhere near enough development. It failed miserably and the factory never recovered. My old unrestored 490