Honda may have let the only Japanese rider on the 2009 MotoGP grid, Yuki Takahashi, slip away earlier in the season - but it seems Ducati wasn't prepared to let its only Italian rider, Niccolo Canepa, leave the field.

Canepa's ride at the satellite Pramac team for the remaining four rounds was in real danger after the team attempted to retain super-sub Aleix Espargaro to ride alongside the returning Mika Kallio.

Espargaro stood in for Kallio at Indianapolis and Misano, while the Finn was replacing Casey Stoner at the factory Ducati team.

Espargaro, without a full time grand prix ride in any class this season, finished 13th at Indy and then eleventh at Misano, when he amazingly set the fifth fastest race lap.

That was enough for Pramac to try and keep hold of the 20-year-old Spaniard, at Canepa's expense, but Ducati appears to have stepped in and quashed the move.

Pramac team boss Paulo Campinoti confirmed that he wanted to keep Espargaro - and also revealed that Kallio has agreed to stay at the team for 2010.

"I would have preferred to run Espargaro," reports Campinoti as saying, "because we would have had greater information to decide who to give the second bike to in 2010, since Kallio has already renewed, but it was not possible."

Kallio claimed his best finish of the season with seventh at Misano while fellow rookie Canepa has taken a best race result of eighth so far this year.

Canepa is 16th in the world championship standings and the last of the full time riders. Kallio, who missed Laguna Seca, is 16 points and one place ahead of him.

Ducati has had one Italian MotoGP rider every year since its 2003 MotoGP debut.



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