The signing brings Melandri’s dismal pairing with Ducati to an end, one year into a two-year contract. For reasons that the team has prohibited him from discussing, Melandri hasn’t adapted to the same Desmosedici GP08 that Casey Stoner has ridden to such good affect. From the start his results have been downfield with only occasional flashes of competence and nothing approaching what was expected of him. Nicky Hayden will take Melandri’s place at Ducati.
“We started talking to Marco about riding for Kawasaki at the beginning of 2007, but contractual obligations on his part meant that it wasn’t possible to secure his services for this season,” Kawasaki’s competition manager Michael Bartholemy said. The talks began 18 months ago, when they were looking at Melandri for the 2007 team. “Since that time we’ve kept in close contact with Marco’s management company, which meant we were able to reopen negotiations immediately we heard that he would be available in 2009.
“This has been a tough year for Marco, but it’s obvious when you speak to him that he’s lost none of the drive and determination that have so far brought him 5 race wins and 14 podium finishes in the premier class, despite suffering results this season that don’t truly reflect his talent.”
“I’m confident that Marco will adapt quickly to Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-RR and that, together with John, he’ll be able to take us to the next level with the development of the all-new 2009 bike. What is certain is that, with Marco and John, we will go into 2009 with our strongest rider line-up since Kawasaki made their full-time return to the premier class in 2002. Now we need to translate this strength and experience into improving our results, with achieving our first race win in MotoGP obviously the major goal.”
Melandri will make his debut aboard Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-RR at Valencia in October, during a two-day test immediately after the final race of the 2008 season.