Kawasaki exit a shock for riders

Marco Melandri and John Hopkins have both been taken aback by news that Kawasaki is set to confirm its withdrawal from MotoGP within days

Kawasaki exit a shock for riders

As autosport.com reported on Tuesday, Kawasaki is expected to announce early next week that it is to withdraw from MotoGP because of the worldwide economic downturn.

The shock news will leave both Hopkins and Melandri without rides in 2009 - with neither rider knowing what their plans now are for the year ahead.

Melandri's manager Alberto Vergani said that the Kawasaki decision had probably been made just before Christmas - and revealed that his Italian rider had already been offered to Gresini.

"Nobody expected it: the racing department had been strengthened following Marco's suggestions. There were engine evolutions, and (Olivier) Jacque had run with the new bike," Vergani told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Marco was feeling treated like a king.

"It looks like the decision was taken on December the 24th in Japan...However, I've offered Marco for free to Gresini, if he wants him..."

The chances of a Gresini switch for Melandri appear slim, however, with team boss Fausto Gresini playing the idea down.

"Marco and his manager made their decision in Brno when they refused my offer," Gresini told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I'm not a salesman."

Hopkins has also been linked with Gresini, but said that it was too early for him to know what was really going on.

Speaking to American website cyclenews.com, Hopkins said: "I heard it's up in the air, but I haven't heard anything confirmed yet.

"I got some calls from the team manager [Michael Bartholemy] and he said that everything could be up in the air as to whether they run it or not, but nothing has been confirmed. I don't know what it would do to me. I'm really not sure.

"I've been talking to my managers and seeing what the plan is and they've been on the phone to Japan trying to figure it out as well. Right now I'm still contracted to them so I'm not sure what the plan is."

There is speculation that Jorge Martinez could be involved in a potential private bid to run the Kawasaki bikes and operation - perhaps with some financial help from MotoGP organisers Dorna.

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