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GP Week : Issue 17
FORMER 500cc and MotoGP racer winner Sete Gibernau, twice runner up to Valentino Rossi, is limbering up to replace second factory Ducati rider Marco Melandri for the second part of the season, as the hapless Italian’s debut Ducati season took another turn for the worse at Assen. His Marlboro-backed team put Melandri into quarantine at Assen, refusing all requests for Press interviews as he continued his extraordinary struggle to avoid coming last on the same bike that team-mate Stoner has ridden to two resounding successive victories. Melandri has an enviable racing record, becoming the youngest-so-far GP winner at Assen in 1998 in the 125 class, and winning the 250 title in 2002. A move to MotoGP proved difficult, but in 2003 and 2004 he came good, winning five GPs on a Honda. His move to Ducati has been a complete disaster for him and the team. At Assen, he was last for the second time this year. Apart from fifth in China, he has been consistently near the back. Now, unless he produces a miracle, his days are numbered. Team chief Livio Suppo told GPWeek: “The situation with Marco is very strange. We must see how he performs at the next two tracks, Sachsenring and Laguna, where he has had good results in the past. "We all hope he can finally find the way. But if he is still struggling, it will be very unusual for a top rider. “We are all so sorry, but sooner or later we will have to serious consider replacing him.” Gibernau is an obvious candidate, from among a small field, said Suppo, adding: “It is very difficult to find a replacement rider at this time of year.” Sete rode for Ducati in 2006, ironically losing his seat to Stoner after an injury-hit season. The Spanish grandson of Bultaco founder Don Paco Bulto sat last year out, but has kept fit, and joined the factory team for tests at Barcelona after the GP of Catalunya. Gibernau will test again in the coming week, Suppo confirmed: “We need to see if he can be consistent,” he said. Gibernau set to replace Melandri n Former friend Valentino Rossi had a succinct answer when asked where he would look if he was, like Marco Melandri, three seconds slower than his team-mate: “I would look in the mirror,” he said. “The problem comes from inside.” n Long-time MotoGP broadcasters Eurosport are to be axed after almost 20 years. Covering all practice sessions, the free- to-view satellite and cable channel covers not only Western Europe, but also Russia and the Eastern Bloc. Eurosport commentators heard the news via a Dorna press release, announcing a preferred strategy of selling MotoGP to national (terrestrial) network broadcasters. n Colin Edwards is still playing off an offer from Kawasaki against a desire to stay with his Tech 3 Yamaha team next year, but expectst the decision to be made by the US GP at Laguna Seca. Earlier thoughts of racing in the USA had been cancelled with the change in regulations there, he said. n Former World Champion and all-time Assen lap record holder Kevin Schwantz denied rumours that he was at the Dutch circuit to secure Hondas for US rider Ben Spies, after his hopes of securing a Suzuki were repeatedly dashed. “I don’t think I’d do that,” he said. “My heart, my soul, my career’s been with Suzuki. I’d like to stay there. I’d like to bring funding there.” n More records fell to Rossi at Assen, where he equalled deadly ex- rival Max Biaggi’s record for consecutive GP starts, clocking up his 201st. HIGH SIDES 12