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GP Week : Issue 25
Melandri goesgreen, Gibernau out KAWASAKI’S 2009 line-up is falling into place, and Marco Melandri ended weeks of speculation when he revealed that he will move to Kawasaki next year, after agreeing a two-year deal with his third manufacturer in MotoGP. The Italian former 250 champion and five-times MotoGP winner will gladly leave Ducati after a nightmare season when he simply failed to adapt to the bike. He will be hoping the Kawasaki will rescue his career in the same way that the five-cylinder Honda did. Melandri’s MotoGP debut was on the ill-favoured M1 Yamaha in 2003, and he struggled before joining the Gresini Honda team, for whom he won all five of his race victories. The dream move as the Italian delegate in the all-red Marlboro Ducati team went sour from the start when Melandri, along with satellite-team riders Guintoli and Elias, found it impossible to match Stoner’s place on the clearly very demanding Desmosedici. Kawasaki is awaiting only the final ratification of the contract from Japan before confirming the details. Melandri’s move ends Sete Gibernau’s hopes of a racing return for the green team, and confirms the end of Anthony West’s tenure. At the same time, there is speculation that Toni Elias’s third place at Brno might have put the popular Spaniard in line to take the third Kawasaki seat, in the new team to be run by Jorge “Aspar” Martinez. His 250 star Alvaro Bautista hoped to move up a class to take the ride, but Martinez may now favour his more experienced compatriot for his first season in the premier class. Melandri’s contract is expected to be announced at the Misano GP, as well as Nicky Hayden’s move to join Stoner on the factory Ducati team next year. Hayden has been on Ducati’s short list for some time, and was originally approached at the end of 2006. When he chose to stay with Honda, Ducati turned to Stoner instead. 14