Motegi MotoGP: Ducati in shock Michelin talks for 2009

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In an incredible late twist, Ducati and Casey Stoner could make a shock switch to Michelin tyres in 2009 as the MotoGP world championship might now avoid adopting a one-make tyre rule after an amazing day in Japan today.

Just three days after it seemed certain a one-make tyre rule would be implemented, frantic negotiations between Ducati and Michelin has seen the two close in on striking an unlikely deal, with Ducati considering leaving Bridgestone despite Stoner’s emphatic 2007 world title success.

A final decision on whether MotoGP would adopt a one-make tyre rule in 2009 was due to be finalised at a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at the Twin Ring Motegi today. But the decision has been delayed until tomorrow when Valentino Rossi could wrap up a sixth premier class world crown.

What had looked like being a mono brand series in 2009, after Michelin came in for scathing criticism over recent races, the series could now see 10 bikes run on Michelin tyres

Ducati may run all five of its GP9 machines on Michelin, with Kawasaki’s factory team also making a sensational switch. Fausto Gresini’s Honda satellite team will also move to Michelin, while Tech 3 Yamaha and LCR Honda will remain with the French company.

The late developments sent shockwaves through the paddock today.
Ducati’s factory team boss Livio Suppo confirmed the Bologna factory had been in negotiations with Michelin about running its satellite teams on Michelin rubber next season.

But he denied making a request for Stoner and new team-mate Nicky Hayden.
“I have thought that since the beginning of this year it would be a good idea to have two bikes on Michelin and two on Bridgestone because this season there has been competition between tyre manufactures.

"Of course there have been circuits where one has been better. To have four or fives bikes with two different manufacturers allows the company to have the best result possible always.”

Ducati moved to Bridgestone in 2004 in a bid to take advantage of the tracks where the Japanese factory held an advantage over the dominant brand Michelin.
Would Ducati take such a bold risk again?

“When we took the risk of going to Bridgestone we were in  a different position compared to now. At that time in my opinion it was a good move that allowed us to win six races in two years and I believe we won last year not just because of Bridgestone. We won because of the package, which was mainly Casey, the bike and the tyres.”

Although Ducati has not officially confirmed being locked in discussion with about a Michelin deal for all five of its riders, MCN has been told a deal is close to being finalised.

The Grand Prix Commission will meet again at 9am Japan time tomorrow morning.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt