It is now official, Marco Melandri will be on the grid at Qatar for the start of the 2009 season with a factory supported Kawasaki. Kawasaki issued a statement earlier today, stating that the agreement to provide support for the team had come because of “the necessity to come to constructive solutions for all related parties.” Kawasaki throughout the entire saga has had tremendous pressure from Dorna to stay in the racing series, and Dorna was under considerable pressure from FIM to field enough bikes to keep its “Championship” status. Both of these issues seem now solved with Kawasaki’s announcement as the minimum quota of 18 riders is now met.
While the news has been hinted at in the press, it appears to have come before Marco Melandri had been informed. According to Italian website Sportmediaset who contacted Melandri after Kawasaki’s press release the Italian rider suprisingly told them :
“It’s surpise for me too! I didn’t know anything, I wasn’t expecting it. The last thing that I heard that they were thinking up a new name for the team, so everything is new. I’m going to need some time to understand, the Japanese have to confirm this personally because they haven’t contacted me.”
When asked if he was happy about this new development Melandri said: “Absolutely. I chose Kawasaki because I wanted a bike that I could develop by myself and the idea of a private team was difficult for me to accept. I was willing to risk because I had nothing else to lose. This new situation could mean we can work on the bike and that we can at least count on a minimum of development that won’t hurt.”
You said that you would test the bike in Qatar and then decide if you were going to race. Doesn’t Kawasaki’s press release change everything?
“I have to talk to the Japanese. I’ll be in Qatar to see how the bike is and how it compares with the competition and if it’s necessary we’ll have to discuss everything. We don’t even know about my contract and how it will be changed. Everything is new for me, I’m only going to test the bike and if Kawasaki says I’m going to be their rider, then I think that I’ll have some space for manouvering.”
This solution could help your 2009 season?
“Exactly. And to relax and not to think about it to much I’m going to do a second race in the Speedcar Series so when I get to Qatar my eyes will be trained for speed.”
What do you think of the bike after having previously tested it twice?
The decision to go with only Marco Melandri for the season is already proving controversial as a lawsuit is expected to be filed by John Hopkins. MCN reports that Hopkins is now due to ride alongside Leon Haslam for Stiggy Honda in World Superbike.
More information as we get it.
Kawasaki Press Release:
Kawasaki announces that after constructive talks between Kawasaki, Dorna and other involved parties, a new one-rider Team will participate in the 2009 MotoGP Championship season.This decision was made after negotiations that followed Kawasaki’s January 2009 announcement to suspend its factory supported MotoGP activities due to the economic crisis. Rider for the new MotoGP team will be the Italian Marco Melandri.
The team will be equipped with Kawasaki motorcycles and supporting materials.
That Kawasaki has come to this new team approach is the result of on the one hand the need for a strong reduction of MotoGP racing investments and on the other hand the necessity to come to constructive solutions for all related parties.
The new team will disclose more details about its 2009 season’s plans on a short notice.
“I don’t expect anything because every time I expect something I get let down. So I’m going to Qatar to see how the 2009 bike is compared to the 2008 one. It will probably be radically changed and I’m curious to see how it feels personally and not listen to what others have told me.”