Melandri close to joining Kawasaki

MotoGP rider to swap Ducati Red for Team Green

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Aug. 21, 2008
Marco Melandri has confirmed that he will race for the factory Kawasaki Racing team for the 2009 MotoGP season.

According to a report on MotoGP’s official website, the Italian racer and former 250cc World Champion will join Kawasaki after completing the 2008 season with Ducati Marlboro.

Melandri has had a difficult 2008 season, currently sitting 15th in the overall standings. His best result this season was a fifth-place finish in the Chinese Grand Prix May 4. Melandri joined Ducati for the 2008 season to replace Loris Capirossi. Prior to racing for Ducati, Melandri had competed for Honda and Yamaha.

Speculation around the paddocks was that Ducati was unsatisfied with Melandri’s performance and were looking for alternative options to race alongside reigning MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner. Rumors drew further life when former MotoGP racer Sete Gibernau joined Ducati as a test rider and displayed impressive results. Ironically, Gibernau and Melandri were teammates with Honda in 2005 when Melandri finished second in the championship behind Valentino Rossi.

Marco Melandri's days with Ducati Marlboro appear to be numbered.When Kawasaki rider John Hopkins bowed out of the U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca to recover from leg surgery, Melandri was one of the candidates to race in his place. At the time, Kawasaki team manager Michael Bartholemy confirmed that the team had spoken with Melandri but was ruled out because he was still under contract with Ducati.

Bartholemy has also confirmed on MotoGP’s website that a two-year deal with Melandri was in the works but still awaits approval from Kawasaki. Once the contract is approved, Bartholemy says Melandri will race with Hopkins in 2009.

Melandri’s arrival raises questions about the future about Hopkins’ current teammate Anthony West. Bartholemy says he may be offered a position with Kawasaki in a different championship series. A third Kawasaki machine on the 2009 MotoGP grid may also be an option.