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GP Week : Issue 28
The jigsaw nears completion ... 2009 rider line-up close to finalised SPANISH Alice Ducati rider Toni Elias, who went from zero to hero after two rostrums in a row at the last two races, will return to the San Carlos Honda team he left at the end of last year, after rejecting overtures to stay at the satellite Ducati team. He will join San Marino rider Alex de Angelis, who signed to stay with the Fausto Gresini run team in the break before the Indy race. This leaves Shinya Nakano out in the cold. At Indianapolis, Kawasaki confirmed that Marco Melandri will join the green team, on a two- year contract that was finalised at the Indy speedway. And with Andrea Dovizioso giving veiled confirmation that he will take Hayden’s place at the HRC team, the latest moves slot almost the last pieces of the jigsaw into place, Elias had been told there was no ride for him at the Alice Ducati squad before the last round, but immediately after the San Marino race, and his second top-three finish, the decision was reversed. Not soon enough, however, and the erratically brilliant rider welcomed an approach from the Gresini Honda team, for whom he rode before switching to Ducati. Sete Gibernau’s on-again off-again hopes of a MotoGP return also took a fillip, with the possibility of a third satellite Ducati team to be run out of Spain by GP legend Angel Nieto’s son, Gelete. He currently runs a 125 team, fielding his younger brother Pablo and sponsored by Onde 2000, but they hope to move up to the big class. A Honda spokesman said the Japanese manufacturer plans to run six machines next year: two each for the factory Repsol squad and Gresini’s San Carlos team, plus one each for JiR Racing and LCR Racing. LCR confirmed at Indianapolis that Randy de Puniet will stay on the team for 2009, but Ben Spies’s hopes of taking the JiR ride are dwindling fast. The triple AMA Superbike champion is now expected to stay in the US next year, with current 250 rider Yuki Takahashi earmarked for the JiR ride. The only vacant seats now are at the satellite Alice Ducati team and the proposed third Kawasaki team, to be run by Jorge ‘Aspar’ Martinez. The Ducatis are expected to go to Mika Kallio and Ducati test rider Nicola Canepa, but there is difficulty in filling the Kawasaki seat, since the sponsors are demanding a rider from Valencia. Top candidate is 250 rider Alex Debon. 14