Marco Melandri is optimistic that the Hayate Kawasaki will be more competitive than it looked in testing, having agreed to race for the team this year.
The Italian was announced as the new team's rider when Kawasaki confirmed that it would retain a MotoGP presence for 2009, but Melandri said he would not commit to Hayate until he was confident the bike was on the pace.
Although he was in the midfield for most of last week's Qatar test, Melandri has now decided to start the year with Hayate. He believes a rear traction issue is hiding the 2009 Kawasaki's potential at present.
"At the end of the day I think the gap to us in Qatar isn't realistic," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"In any case, we have just one big problem. The front end is good, the engine is a lot better than I had expected power-wise, but especially with the power curve during the initial phase of opening the throttle.
"We have absolutely no traction [at the rear end]. It's a problem that emerged in (Olivier) Jacque's first test in Australia. They've made a modification, but it doesn't solve the problem.
"We'll get some new material at Jerez and I hope that will solve the situation. Also because I think that beyond that, the racing department in Japan will only do revisions more or less. And that's already a good thing because only they can put their hands on that engine.
"Let's start off the season and we'll see. I want to stay optimistic: if we solve our problem, than the midfield runners aren't far off."
Melandri said he ultimately decided that it was better to be on the MotoGP grid with a midfield bike than to sit out the season.
"I'm a rider with a suitcase, and to stand still for one year would be really bad," he said.
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