The saga of whether Kawasaki will remain in MotoGP continues on this week with the rumour mill shifting to the future of riders John Hopkins and Marco Melandri.
The Japanese manufacturer was strongly rumoured to have announced their withdrawal from the series earlier this week, but with the 'deadline' passing and no word emerging from the 'Team Green' camp, some hopes have been raised that a rescue deal may be sought.
Although it is still expected that Kawasaki are planning to end their manufacturer involvement in MotoGP, the delay in confirming it is rumoured to stem from a possible deal involving Jorge Martinez's Aspar concern.
As revealed earlier this week, Martinez claims to have been contacted by series organisers Dorna, who are determined to maintain Kawasaki's presence in the series, even if it is not in a works capacity.
The options could see Martinez take up the running of the two bikes Kawasaki has already spent time and money developing for 2009 (albeit not fully), although the identity of the riders will undoubtedly come down to who gets the most sponsorship space.
Between Hopkins and Melandri, Hopkins comes with heavy backing from American energy drink company Monster, making him a tempting candidate for the teams currently fighting the global economic crisis. Linked with Tech 3 Yamaha in place of Colin Edwards, Superbike Planet
are reporting that Hopkins could still ride a Kawasaki in 2009, albeit in the AMA Superbike Championship - provided the team commits to an entry.
Melandri, meanwhile, is thought to be more of a concern for Dorna, who are keen to keep him in the series, despite his disastrous season with Ducati. With less money to bring to the table than Hopkins, Corriere dello Sport
report that it is up to Dorna to arrange something for him to stay in the series.
Both Hopkins and Melandri's options seem very limited, with MotoGP having already posted a provisional entry list and no team seemingly wanting to commit to a second or third bike in a time of economic hardship.
The World Superbike Championship has been mooted, particularly for Melandri as it would be likely that FG Sport would aid his attempts at securing a top ride, but with all of the top seats filled (barring a financially-aided expansion), both riders could be facing a season on the sidelines.