KAWASAKI CONFIRM MELANDRI TO PARTNER HOPKINS IN 2009 The Kawasaki Racing Team can confirm that Marco Melandri will partner John Hopkins for Kawasaki's assault on the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, after securing the Italian's signature on a ...
KAWASAKI CONFIRM MELANDRI TO PARTNER HOPKINS IN 2009
The Kawasaki Racing Team can confirm that Marco Melandri will partner John Hopkins for Kawasaki's assault on the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, after securing the Italian's signature on a two-year contract today in Indianapolis.
The agreement brings to conclusion negotiations that have been ongoing for more than 18 months between Kawasaki and the former 250cc World Champion.
"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," explained Kawasaki Competition Manager, Michael Bartholemy. "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."
After winning the Italian 125cc championship in 1997, the then 15-year-old Melandri finished third in the 125cc world championship the following year, with his two race wins during his debut season making him, at the time, the youngest Grand Prix victor in history. The following year saw the emerging star lose out on the world championship title by just a single point, after achieving five wins and four podium finishes during the course of the season.
In 2002, just two years after stepping up to the quarter-litre class, Melandri was crowned world champion and announced his move to the MotoGP class for the following season.
Melandri's second place in the MotoGP world championship standings in 2005 was backed up with two top five finishes in 2006 and 2007, before a change of teams for the 2008 season unfortunately brought with it a change of fortune for the Italian rider.
"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," concluded Kawasaki's Competition Manager.
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.
PROFILE: MARCO MELANDRI
Born: 7 August 1982 - Ravenna, Italy
Marital Status: Single
Residence: Derby, England
Height: 166cm / 5'4"
Weight: 58kg / 128lbs
Hobbies: Motocross, cycling, music
First Grand Prix: Japanese Grand Prix, 1998
Grand Prix Podiums: 61 (22 wins in total, 5 MotoGP wins)