Marco Melandri's two-wheeled future may still be up in the air, following Kawasaki's factory withdrawal from MotoGP and no final decision on attempts to keep the ZX-RRs on the grid as a privateer entry, but the Italian has wasted no time in finding a four-wheel drive.
The former 250cc world champion and MotoGP World Championship runner-up, who was expecting to make his factory Kawasaki debut at Qatar on 12 April, will instead make his Speedcar Series debut at the same Losail International Circuit this weekend (12-14 February).
The Italian will drive a second Team Lavaggi entry alongside former F1 star Heinz Harald Frentzen, in what will be his four-wheel debut on a permanent race circuit.
Speedcar is a one-make NASCAR-style competition featuring identical 620bhp machines. Based in Dubai and taking place across Asia and the Middle East, the series has succeeded in attracting several big names from the four-wheel racing world, including 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve. Former F1 racewinner and Le Mans champion Johnny Herbert is the reigning Speedcar champion, while other grand prix race winners including Frentzen and Jean Alesi also compete.
Some 14 drivers, across seven teams, will compete at Losail during what will be Speedcar's first night race.
“Valentino Rossi has already shown that those guys also know how to race a four-wheel-vehicle,” Speedcar regular Christopher Zoechling said. “I am sure Marco will do well, although our cars are pretty hard to handle.”
Melandri, who - like Kawasaki team-mate John Hopkins - missed the opening MotoGP test of 2009 at Sepang last week, has stated that he will consider taking a year off if he doesn't conclude a deal by the end of February.
The next MotoGP test is also due to take place at Qatar over 1-3 March.