The Misano MotoGP round saw the paddock dive into the very heart of silly season, with contracts close enough to being signed for details to leak out, but still so many rumors muddying the water that news taken as hard fact could still easily turn out to be complete fiction.
The latest news from the Spanish sports daily AS.com is a case in point. AS is reporting that Ducati is prepared to supply a 5th bike next year for Sete Gibernau to ride. The bike would be run by the Onde 2000 team, which is currently running in the 125cc class, with Pablo Nieto and Raffaele de Rosa aboard KTMs.
Just how much fact there is in this news item is extremely hard to say. Sete Gibernau has certainly been working very closely with Ducati over the past couple of months, testing for the factory at Mugello, and rumors had emerged that Gibernau would already be aboard Melandri's bike. With Melandri now signed for Kawasaki, but showing improved form, Melandri is almost certain to see out the rest of the season, leaving Gibernau without a ride. It is not unthinkable that Ducati may want to compensate the Spanish star for his hard work in mid-season.
But there is still plenty of room for doubt in this story. Firstly, there's the sponsor: Onde 2000 is a Spanish construction company, involved mainly in residential housing. With domestic house prices in Spain going through the floor, the result of a credit and investment bubble combining with a construction boom, Spain's construction companies, once flush with cash, are struggling to make ends meet, and even going out of business. But with many of the firms in private hands, which companies are suffering and which are surviving is hard to tell. As a general rule, though, the Spanish building industry is not a solid foundation for building long term sponsorship relationships.
Then there's Onde 2000's current riders. Pablo Nieto, son of the Spanish racing legend Angel Nieto, turned 28 this year, and as a result, will not be eligible to return to the 125cc class in 2009, as the class has an age limit of 27. With such a famous name behind him, there will be a lot of pressure for Pablo to be given a ride, if a bike is made available. Fortunately for Gibernau, the step up from 125 to MotoGP is probably going to be too big, even for Nieto.
Sete Gibernau is clearly very keen to get back into the MotoGP paddock, and the Spanish press are just as keen to see him there. As a consequence, the line between concrete discussions and wishful thinking is a little hard to draw just at the moment. We'll just have to wait a little longer to see what is fact and what is fiction.