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GP Week : Issue 19
12 M oto GP news >> WITH the second half of the season barely begun, the paddock is already buzzing with talk about who goes where for 2009. Or even, in the case of Marco Melandri, the rest of 2008. As reported in GPWeek, odds are that the unhappy Italian will be replaced at Ducati at the Czech Republic GP after the summer break by Sete Gibernau. No change there; but further confirmation has come that Melandri has been blocked by Ducati from an immediate switch to Kawasaki to replace Hopkins. Kawasaki boss Michael Bartholemy has also confirmed a short-list of four to partner Hopkins next year. Two definite names are Melandri and current incumbent West. Other possible candidates are Edwards, Elias or Ducati’s star tester Nicolo Canepa. And even Gibernau. Bartholemy hopes to know by the Czech GP, “because it takes quite long time to make a contract. I think around about Brno I need to have a very, very clear idea,” he said. Nicky Hayden’s future is also subject of much speculation: he’s been linked, in particular, to Ducati. He was non-committal, “for contractual reasons”, but agreed that “there are rumours that I’ve sat on the bike (Ducati) and that I’ve signed the deal. I haven’t sat on the bike and I haven’t signed a deal. And, I mean, I really can’t contractually say too much about what’s going on. But sure, that’s an option I’d be a fool not to…” He has also been talking to Honda, but as yet has no offer. Ducati will need a second rider, and, as well as Gibernau and Hayden, already has a strong interest in Canepa (who tested fast also on a Superbike after leading the Indy MotoGP tests, and makes his SBK debut at Brno next weekend); and has also had talks with 250 KTM star Mika Kallio. Canepa, a 20-year-old Italian engineering student, not only set fastest time at Indy MotoGP tests for Ducati, he was also fast in Superbike tests, and makes his SBK debut at Brno next weekend. Rumour mill in overdrive in early Silly Season NEW 250 points leader Marco Simoncelli rose hairy head and shoulders above his competitors at the Sachsenring … thanks to an all-new and radically redesigned Gilera V-twin. But while the bike may be new as a Gilera, there are already six riders who have been enjoying the same benefit under the Aprilia name all season, without having the same exceptional result. The new Gilera is a renamed Aprilia RSA, the same as those already ridden by Alvaro Bautista, Hector Barbera, Mattia Pasini, Thomas Luthi and Alex Debon. Until now, Simoncelli had been riding the 2007 factory RS Aprilia, and had won two races on it. He tested the 2008 version at Brno the week before the German race and, though he liked it, he initially wanted to stick with his more familiar RS model. Eventually he was persuaded, but admitted after his towering win (following domination in qualifying): “I was nervous before this race because of the new bike.” His performance on the new machine in his first race on it will have his competitors worried. The machine differs in a radical rearrangement of the V-twin engine, shortened by moving the front crankshaft upwards. While cylinder tuning and horsepower are not changed, this allows a longer swing-arm, which improves handling. Simoncelli’s chance pays off