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 Crash.net
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.”