Lucio Cecchinello rules out Marco Melandri swoop

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LCR Honda team boss Lucio Cecchinello has told MCN he won’t be offering Marco Melandri a MotoGP lifeline in 2009.

Former world 250 champion Melandri is frantically searching for a ride following the shock demise of Kawasaki’s factory team.No official announcement has been released by Kawasaki in Japan, but Melandri is already exploring alternative options and his manager Alberto Vergani has contacted Fausto Gresini and Lucio Cecchinello about a ride in their satellite Honda squads.

Melandri was checking out the option of running one of two bikes allocated to either Alex de Angelis in the Gresini squad or to French rider Randy de Puniet in Cecchinello’s Monaco-based team.

Cecchinello has confirmed Vergani approached him after news of Kawasaki’s withdrawal broke on December 29.

But he has ruled out letting Melandri ride one RC212V in his squad while de Puniet has to make do with only one of the two bikes he expected to ride.

Cecchinello has ruled out a swoop for former MotoGP runner-up Melandri though for several reasons.

He told MCN: “I was approached by Melandri’s manager about him riding for me in 2009. But this won’t happen for several reasons. The first is the budget. To find a budget to fund a second rider is very difficult, particularly with the current economic situation, and it is hard to find a sponsor willing to pay for Melandri when you consider the season he had last year.

“Secondly, and I haven’t spoken to Honda about this, but I am 99.9 per cent certain that Honda would not agree to Melandri having the use of one bike. This would mean HRC would need extra engines and therefore more spare parts and the maintenance would also increase.

“This is a time when Honda is looking to reduce its costs and not spend more money. Thirdly it comes down to the team personnel as well and finding mechanics at this late stage. So I don’t think there is any chance that Melandri can join my team.”

Melandri has also been linked with the Scot Honda squad in a similar share deal where he would use one of the two bikes allocated to Japanese rookie Yuki Takahashi.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt