Rumors are intensifying about Marco Melandri’s possible switch to World Superbike next season, as BMW Team Manager Davide Tardozzi told Italian news site GPone, “we don’t have the signature, and that is the most important part, but I received a very positive impression from Melandri.”
As is the case with many riders leaving MotoGP for WSBK, money seems to be less of an issue, than returning to a racing format where non-alien riders can be competitive again. Continuing in his statement, Tardozzi said, “We never talked about money, only about how competitive we would be. Marco wants to win and show that he is still a top rider, and I think this is the right philosophy for Superbike.”
With Troy Corser putting the BMW S1000RR on the podium twice this year, along with a pole position at Misano, Melandri seems certain to take the seat of Ruben Xaus, whose lackluster season has created a lot of buzz about his early departure from the team.
If Melandri does make a move from MotoGP to World Superbike, then it would open-up a seat in the San Carlo Honda Gresini team, which could be taken by Andrea Dovizioso. Despite a very strong 2010 season, Dovi seems to be on the losing-end in a game of musical chairs. The Italian rider will likely not ride in the Repsol Honda camp, despite the fact he’s met the conditions of the performance clause in his contract with HRC. According to that contract, Dovizioso is assured a factory bike in the 2011 season if he finished in the Top 5 of the Championship at pre-set point in the season.
Honda is reported to have been in talks with Red Bull about funding a one-man team, presumably for Dovizioso, but the funding from Red Bull, and anyone else for that matter, has dried up, leaving HRC in a bit of a lurch. The best alternative at this point seems to be sticking Dovi in the Gresini team, which already has HRC-contracted rider Marco Simoncelli residing in it. This move could make the San Carlo Honda Gresini team a bit more than a satellite team, given that Simoncelli will be exempt from the Rookie Rule in 2011, and might achieve the desired results that Honda was looking for initially in its plan to field a three-man factory team.