MCN Exclusive: Marco Melandri agrees to race Hayate in 2009

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Marco Melandri has decided today (Friday) to race a re-branded factory Kawasaki ZX-RR in the 2009 MotoGP world championship, MCN can exclusively reveal.

The Italian has decided to continue riding for the new Hayate team after he tested the ZX-RR during the night test in Qatar earlier this week.

Although the former world 250GP champion finished 17th and slowest at the Losail International Circuit, his manager Alberto Vergani confirmed to MCN that Melandri had informed Hayate management of his intention to compete in 2009. He finished 3.107s slower than Casey Stoner in Doha.

Melandri had initially refused to commit to the project until he had tested the new 2009 ZX-RR in Qatar and assessed its performance potential.

Many expected Melandri to sign regardless, given his apparent reluctance to sit out this season and try and find a ride in 2010, even though his contract will be renegotiated at a significantly reduced rate.

His prime concern had been a lack of development on the bike during the season, with Kawasaki only committing to the maintenance of engines and production of existing rather than new parts.

Melandri, who has signed a contract to race a factory Kawasaki with American John Hopkins in 2009, will now renegotiate his contract with Hayate in the next few days.

Vergani told MCN: “Marco will race on. He has decided today that he will go on. He tested the bike in Qatar and he said the new bike was not so bad. If they can solve a problem with rear grip then he believes he can be reasonably competitive.”

Vergani said Melandri had decided not to go into self-imposed exile to enhance his chances of finding a place in the premier class again in 2010.

“He decided to race because he felt staying out of the championship for just one year was too hard. Even though the bike might not be at the highest level, for him it was best to carry on and at least try rather just sit at home.

He spent a couple of days thinking about it after Qatar, and nothing is signed yet but he will carry on.

There is no alternative, so he has to try, “said Vergani.
Vergani also added that Melandri was under no illusions about how tough 2009 will be, particularly with Kawasaki not developing the bike during the season.

“He is aware of the situation. He knows he has to suffer a little bit. It will be a tough, tough season, but you never know. There was some encouragement in Qatar so maybe he can surprise in some races. He said the bike is better than 2008. “said Vergani Former Kawasaki Technical Director Ichiro Yoda is running the Hayate team.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt