The ongoing attempts by Ducati to obtain more grid slots for 2004, for Neil Hodgson and one other rider, appears to be reaching a successful conclusion with an announcement possible as early as next month.

Due to the franchise agreement between Dorna and the teams, Ducati can't simply set-up a new team to run their WSBK championship favourite, and instead need to reach some form of agreement with an existing team to either run Hodgson, or loan them a grid place to do it themselves.

The most likely teams available to do this are those with the 'weakest' factory support at present, pointing towards WCM and D'Antin.

With WCM eager to keep both their grid places to run their own four-stroke prototype next year, that leaves D'Antin as Ducati's prime target - with both Shinya Nakano and Makoto Tamada's rides potentially up for grabs.

At present, Luis D'Antin is the least supported of the Yamaha runners, through Shinya Nakano, while his second slot is leased to the Pramac Honda team for Tamada.

Clearly, the opportunity to re-unite his team and run two factory supported 2003 Desmosedici's for the likes of Hodgson and possibly current Kawasaki test rider Alex Hofmann - the latest to be linked with the second seat - would be extremely attractive.

However, questions still remain regarding how badly both Yamaha and Honda want to keep their current links with D'Antin.

Nakano is highly valued by Yamaha - and has outperformed many of his fellow M1 riders this year. He is currently eighth in the world championship, is the only rider other than Valentino Rossi to score points at every round, and sits just two points and one place behind the highest placed Yamaha of Carlos Checa.

MotoGP rookie Tamada meanwhile is equally highly valued, having proven his talent on several occasions with a 'customer' 2002 spec RCV and is quickly emerging as Japan's best hope for a first premier class crown. As significantly for HRC, Tamada is the only Honda rider to use the fast developing Bridgestone tyres and Honda are likely to do everything possible to keep both Tamada and Bridgestone with them next year.

However, that may not necessarily mean using the second D'Antin grid place. Tohru Ukawa's seat is coming under increasing pressure in the Pons outfit, and with Pramac involved with both teams, replacing Ukawa with Tamada - and keeping the latter on Bridgestone tyres - isn't unlikely. It could also mean that Biaggi would get Ukawa's factory ride.

All could be revealed soon. A D'Antin spokesperson has told that the team's current contracts expire in September - leaving them free to sign a new deal anytime after that.

That date just happens to tie in nicely with the latest information from Hodgson himself.

"The decision (to move to MotoGP with Ducati) is not finalised, but I should know by the end of the month," he told Britain's Motor Cycle News.