Toni Elias in frame for third Kawasaki

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Brno MotoGP runner-up Toni Elias is being hotly-tipped to ride a third factory Kawsaki in next year’s MotoGP world championship.

A deal between Kawasaki and Spanish team owner Jorge Martinez is close to being finalised with current Alice Ducati rider Elias a leading contender.

Kawasaki and Dorna held meetings in Brno to confirm plans to roll out a third ZX-RR next season, with John Hopkins being joined Marco Melandri in the official factory team, as was exclusively revealed by MCN yesterday.

Martinez’s current 250GP title contender Alvaro Bautista was linked with the ride, but he is understood to want to remain in 250s for one more year before moving to the premier class in 2010.

Martinez though is expected to still want to run a Spanish rider, and Elias’s stunning second in Brno last weekend seems unlikely to save him from the axe at Ducati.

Elias though has categorically denied wanting a move to World Superbikes with Yamaha or Ducati.

The third ZX-RR will still be run under the umbrella of Kawasaki’s factory team, according to team boss Michael Bartholemy, but Aussie Anthony West has no chance of retaining his seat having been told by management in Brno that his contract will not be renewed.

Kawasaki though is looking at offering West a ride in either its World Superbike or World Supersport teams.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt