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GP Week : Issue 18
IF Melandri’s factory-team seat does fall vacant, ex-incumbent Sete Gibernau is standing by to jump on board. The Spaniard’s claim was reinforced again when he came within a shade of Stoner’s lap record after three days of testing at Mugello. Gibernau, twice MotoGP runner up, tested not only this year’s GP8 but also ran extensively on the development GP9, with carbon-fibre frame sections, for the first time. He set his best time on this year’s bike, on race tyres, running less than half-a-second off the record of 1m50.003s. Next year’s bike, he said, reminded him of the GP7 he had tested, that Stoner used to win the title. “I’ve really enjoyed myself today,” he said. “The faster you go, the more obvious it becomes that this bike demands a real physical and mental effort, but when you manage to ride it well, the satisfaction is unique.” He also pleased Ducati technical supreme Filippo Preziosi. “Sete has certainly demonstrated that he’s still able to ride very fast,” he said; adding that another benefit was to prove to the other beleaguered Ducati riders that the bike is not just a Stoner Special: “I hope that this result will also spur on Marco and Toni,” he said. Gibernau’s immediate future remains open to speculation, but he proved both fit and fast in a gruelling series of tests, only his second since his enforced retirement at the end of 2006. Sete has yet to experience new- generation qualifying tyres, using only race tyres at the tests. Gibernau tests fast and loose Hayden sought by Ducati and Honda B-Team 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden may feel his factory Honda ride slipping away from him, but it seems that the frustrated American will not be a MotoGP reject. Hayden stepped straight into the factory team in 2003 after winning the AMA Superbike title, and in 2006 defeated Rossi for the World Championship. He has however won only three races in more than five years; and for the past season and a half has clearly been below younger team-mate Dani Pedrosa in the pecking order. Nicky is considered a serious candidate for the second Ducati seat; his bullish riding style a possible good match to the most powerful machine on the grid. The Italian factory already tried once to get the American on board at the end of his title year. Hayden chose to stay with Honda, and Ducati turned to Stoner instead. Hayden is attractive also to strengthen Ducati’s image in a crucial export market. Should current talks come to nothing, however, Hayden has another offer on the table, from the JIR-Scot Honda team. This would be a straight swap. The Italian- run team’s current rider Andrea Dovizioso is slated to join Pedrosa in the Repsol- backed factory team next year, and the team has promised to keep the satellite- Honda’s seat warm for Nicky. 14