The Ducati Marlboro Team has told it still doesn't know when the identity of its second rider for the 2007 MotoGP season will be announced.

The fight for the final factory Desmosedici seat, alongside Loris Capirossi, now looks to be a straight contest between its exiting occupant, Sete Gibernau, and Fortuna Honda's triple 2006 race winner Marco Melandri.

Gibernau looked likely to retain his ride as the three flyaway races began, but a combination of Melandri's Phillip Island victory, Nicky Hayden's decision to re-sign for the factory Repsol Honda Team and Gibernau's continued podium absence seems to have increased Ducati's options.

Hayden's new two-year deal alongside Dani Pedrosa means that Melandri is at least several seasons away from a full factory Honda seat, prompting him to consider alternatives. From Ducati's point of view, as well as his proven race-winning ability (and Italian nationality), Melandri is only 24-years-old - nine years younger than both Capirossi and Gibernau (33) - meaning that he would be perfectly placed to inherit Capirossi's unofficial number one role in the near future.

Nevertheless, the fact that Ducati let the experienced Gibernau ride the new 800cc Desmosedici GP7 during testing after Motegi - and that he set such a fast pace - means the Spaniard is far from out of the picture.

In theory, Melandri could also be in contention for the second factory Yamaha ride alongside Valentino Rossi. The ride had been lined up for Hayden, but the American's sudden Honda deal has left countryman Colin Edwards confident of keeping his seat.



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