After a dismal year in 2008, where he struggled woefully with the Ducati Desmosedici, Marco Melandri has taken last year's Kawasaki and turned in some remarkable results. MotoGPMatters.com caught up with Melandri at Laguna Seca, to ask about the year so far, and what he expects for the future.
MGPM: After your difficult year in 2007, you've exceeded everyone's expectations this season with Hayate. Do you feel you're once again showing people what Marco Melandri is capable of?
Melandri: Yes, it has been a very tough 2008, and for sure I signed up for a difficult challenge with Kawasaki. After the winter we knew we would have a very tough season, but then we had some very good races, which no one expected, including me. I expected to have some good races, actually, but not to do as well as we've done. After that we had some difficult races, and I had a small injury in Barcelona, but now that's getting better. I'm quite happy with the season so far.
MGPM: So after three finishes outside the top ten, do you feel you're on course to return to the form you showed earlier in the season?
Melandri: For sure. Our target is to come back into the top ten. I know it's going to be tough to finish sixth or seventh, but we will do our best. I think that the bike is working okay on this track. I like the track, too. So I just have to see about my condition on the weekend.
MGPM: How has the announcement that there will be no Kawasaki on the grid in 2010 affected your motivation for this season?
Melandri: [Pauses.] Who says this?
MGPM: [Hayate Team Manager] Andrea Dosoli was quoted as saying he didn't think Kawasaki would be back next year.
Melandri: I think this has been a misunderstanding, because actually, we don't know. I think Kawasaki may make this decision at the Sachsenring in two weeks. For now we don't actually know. I think it's just what some people are saying, that Kawasaki is selling the big stuff we don't use, like the hospitality and some other things, because now I'm the only rider, and for sure they have too many things [left over from having two riders] and don't want to waste money.
MGPM: So as far as you're concerned, you're still motivated to do the best you can and see what happens?
Melandri: Sure. My goal is to do my best and try to get a good bike for next year. But I don't know if I will stay with Kawasaki or find another team.
MGPM: Speaking of other teams, Gresini Honda has mentioned an interest in you; how would you feel about going there, given that in the past you were promised support from HRC that didn't really happen, and this year Tony Elias seems to be in a similar situation?
Melandri: I don't know, because the situation now is quite strange compared to four or five years ago. First, I want to know what Kawasaki wants to do for next year. Then… I just think it's too early for me to know what's going on. Everybody is starting to talk about what's going on for next year. But I think that before the end of August it's going to be tough to make any choice about 2010.
For sure I would like to get a factory bike, to be able to win. My mentality is to win. I had such an opportunity in 2005, 2006. At that time, especially after my first year with Honda, I was hoping to move to HRC to try to improve my result of being second in the championship. But that didn't happen. And now it's very important to have a good sponsor. But I just don't know if a good spot is going to be free for next year.