Italian Marco Melandri is confident he will be competitive on the new Hayate MotoGP bike in 2009.
Having recently confirmed he will race the re-branded factory Kawasaki ZX-RR in a deal exclusively revealed by MCN, the former world 250 champion believes he won’t be a perennial backmarker when the new season starts in Qatar on April 12.
Melandri ended the night test in Qatar earlier this month with the slowest time as he made his debut on the new Hayate machine, which is the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-RR prototype run under a new name.
But he remains confident that he will be able to score positive results next season to erase memories of his disastrous 2008 campaign with Ducati’s official factory team.
Melandri told MCN: “The engine has made a big step forward. When you first open the throttle the response is a little easier to control and smoother, but when you get to the top of the revs the feeling is pretty much the same.
"The power feels the same and engine character is the same. We have to still the engine braking though.”
Melandri is also happy with a new chassis and swingarm combination that he tried in Qatar, but he wants improvements to rear grip ahead of the first race under the Losail International Circuit’s floodlights He added: “It is very different from 2008 and we have to find a better balance.
"It is hard to close the line in the faster corners because the front feels a long way from me. It keeps wanted to running wide. The bike feels more stable than before and there is not so much weight transfer.
"On the old bike there was too much weight transfer from the front to the rear in the fast corners.
"We don’t have enough weight on the front when braking either, and we have to use the front brake too much to make the bike turn and that’s slowing my corner speed.”
Melandri will ride for the Hayate squad having initially thought he would be riding with American John Hopkins in Kawasaki’s official factory team.
That plan was wrecked when Kawasaki opted to quit MotoGP in early January because of the global economic crisis. Ex-Kawasaki factory team staff, including Technical Director Ichiro Yoda, will run the Hayate team.