Marco Melandri has said that he will ride for Kawasaki in the 2009 MotoGP World Championship.

"I will ride for Kawasaki next year so it's a big change for me," Melandri told the official MotoGP website. "For the time being I want to think about this season but it will be a big challenge next year. I will keep working hard though and I am quite confident."

Whilst negotiations between Melandri and Kawasaki are obviously a long way down the line, with both team and rider happy with the proposal on offer, Crash.net understands that the new partnership still needs to be discussed at Kawasaki's headquarters in Japan before it can be finalised.

That process is ongoing and Melandri is said to have jumped the gun a little by publically confirming the move - although few doubt that it will happen.

Melandri, whose 2008 move to the factory Ducati team has yielded just two top ten finishes from twelve race starts, was first linked with Team Green earlier in the year, when it seemed likely that he would leave Ducati midway through a desperately disappointing season.

That switch to a third ZX-RR never materialised, and Melandri - whose only other option was to sit out the remainder of the season - soon stated his intention to see out the rest of the year with Ducati, although the second year of his contract was annulled by mutual consent.

In recent weeks, Melandri's 2009 destination seemed to have swung in favour of a return to the satellite Honda Gresini outfit - with whom Melandri took all five of his MotoGP race wins and finished second in the 2005 world championship.

"Yes it would have been a very nice option to go back to Fausto [Gresini]," admitted Marco. "I had a very good time with him and he has always helped me a lot. Also this year we have been talking together, but for me, I have been looking at Kawasaki and they always seem very good. The engineers and the people give me a good feeling just to talk to them, so that is what I want to do."

Melandri thus looks on course to retain factory MotoGP status by riding alongside John Hopkins at Kawasaki in 2009, at the expense of Antony West.

Kawasaki, the only MotoGP manufacturer yet to win a race since the switch to four-stroke machinery in 2002, has long stated its determination to field two 'proven' front-running riders.

Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden remains hotly tipped to take Melandri's place alongside Casey Stoner at Ducati Marlboro next season.

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