Rizla Suzuki are expected to confirm that Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen will remain with the team through to 2009 after a run of good form of late for both riders.
Although Capirossi was always expected to have his contract extended, there were question marks about Vermeulen, who was having a patchy season up until his two consecutive podiums in Germany and the United States.
Coupled to Capirossi's third place finish at Brno last weekend, the riders are now classified a solid seventh and tenth in the overall standings, while both are in with an outside shot of fourth place in the championship.
As such, while Vermeulen has been courted by Xerox Ducati for a switch to World Superbikes, the Aussie rider could be confirmed alongside Capirossi as soon as the next round of MotoGP at Misano.
“We have always said that we are really happy with our riders and that we need to improve the level of our bike, then their level will automatically improve,” team manager Paul Denning told MotoGP.com
. “We are very close to taking the right steps with both the guys, so we hope to be able to confirm that at Misano or just after.”
In addition, Suzuki could debut elements of the 2009-specification GSV-R800 early following a successful shakedown during collective testing at Brno this week. However, Denning played down those claims, by saying they are merely trying to get a head start on 2009.
“We have not been pushing so much for one-lap times. We have been looking to try and increase our front tyre durability. Bridgestone have done an amazing job with the tyres here, but at some racetracks we have had a bit of restriction towards the end of races.
“Our bike has been using the front tyre up more than the other manufacturers on Bridgestones. Now we have found some interesting solutions for that.
“We have also tried a new chassis which we hope will affect grip levels. This has also had good results. Really this test in Brno was not about results here, it is about trying to understand the best direction for the 2009 bike and this is the first step to get the information.”
Meanwhile, the impending announcement about riders looks set to freeze Ben Spies out of the Suzuki squad. The highly regarded American was eyeing a Rizla ride for 2009, but it remains to be seen now where he will fit in beyond another season in the AMA.