Xerox Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi has revealed he is chasing either Chris Vermeulen, Max Biaggi or Shane Byrne to replace Troy Bayliss in the team next season.

Ever since Bayliss revealed he will be retiring at the end of the 2009 season, speculation has been rife as to who will replace one of the most successful Superbike riders in the championship's history.

Initially chasing Colin Edwards, Tardozzi has exclusively told that while it will be difficult to replace Bayliss with someone equally as accomplished, his current number one choice would be 2005 World Superbike runner-up Vermeulen.

A ten-time WSBK race winner, Tardozzi admits he has approached Vermeulen about the possibility of stepping away from MotoGP in 2009, but is resigned to the fact that the Australian rider's recent revival of form with Suzuki may dash their hopes of securing their man.

"Nobody in the world can replace Troy 360 degrees," he said. "He has such a great relationship with us, our fans... everybody likes him, not just Ducati fans. And he is fast, which means we can't replace him with someone who can probably get the same results.

"My favourite is Chris Vermuelen though. We have approached him but he is still under contract with Suzuki and it looks like they are trying to keep him after the last two results. I think the chances are pretty slim now."

With Vermuelen seemingly out of the picture, Ducati plan to open talks with a handful of riders after this weekend's World Superbike round at Brands Hatch.

However, it does seem likely that Michel Fabrizio's seat is safe as Tardozzi took the time to praise the young Italian for the progress he has made since graduating to the factory-backed team this season.

"We have two places free, but we have an option on Michel and it is possible we are going to renew because he is performing really well. Michel is certainly in position so far and while he hasn't got the contract yet, we are thinking he is growing."

With Vermeulen potentially out of the picture now and Fabrizio leaning towards one of the Ducati bikes for 2009, Tardozzi went on to suggest that the race to replace Bayliss is between Max Biaggi and Shane Byrne.

"Max is one of the guys that we think could replace Troy," he continued. "This year he had a fantastic start and showed how strong he is, but he had some problems that weren't his mistakes. We are really looking forward to see what he will be doing at Brands Hatch.

"Shane is one of the guys on our list too. We were really looking forward to see him at Brands as a wild-card, but his team took the decision not to race because the schedule is very tight and they didn't want to take any risks. But he is an experienced guy and showing he is riding the Ducati the perfect way. He could be one of the guys because he is definitely on our list."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment

Well, who cares who gets the ride. Whoever it is, is only a seat warmer till Brendan Roberts is groomed and ready for the ride.