This week has been a busy one for Kawasaki following their best combined result of the season in Brno and the news that they are almost certain to sign Marco Melandri to their team in 2009, but speculation still surrounds the prospect of them running a third bike.
The Japanese manufacturer has long been expected to run a third bike in the series so as to acquire crucial data and establish greater competitiveness alongside their rivals.
However, while a Kawasaki source this week told Crash.net
that they have not been approached by a any party interested in sponsoring, or running, a third ZX-RR in 2009, their Competition Manager Michael Bartholemy has now confirmed that plans to expand the team are being finalised.
As for the finer details, there is no word as to who could run the bike, while there is little indication as to who will be riding it either. Alice's Toni Elias is an early candidate, as is 250cc rider Alvaro Bautista, although that will likely depend on whether his Aspar team get involved as they are rumoured to be.
However, there is also a strong possibility that Kawasaki's current rider Anthony West could be eased onto the third bike now that it has been confirmed he will not occupy one of the seats in the factory team next year.
“If we do run a third bike it would be up to the sponsors and the management who the rider is, but Anthony West could be part of the package that we offer,” Batholemy told MotoGP.com
. “In Misano we should be able to confirm that Melandri has joined us and we should be able to clarify the situation with the third bike.”
West's future, however, is with Kawasaki regardless, with Bartholemy suggesting that he could make the switch to the World Superbike Championship in 2009, probably with the factory supported PSG-1 outfit.
“With regard to Anthony he will not be part of the main Kawasaki MotoGP team next season but we want to offer him a contract to remain as a Kawasaki factory rider, because we have invested a lot in him to bring him up a level since he joined us last year. That could mean that Anthony rides for us in another World Championship series.”