As rumoured, it has been officially announced that Ducati test rider Niccolo Canepa and KTM's 250GP star Mika Kallio will ride for the Pramac Ducati team - currently backed by Alice - in the 2009 MotoGP World Championship.

Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo had told in mid-July that Canepa and Kallio were on a shortlist for the satellite Desmosedici rides and, having failed to retain Toni Elias, both will now make their MotoGP debuts next season.

"We are very happy to have two very promising riders in Kallio and Canepa," said Pramac Racing team principal Paolo Campinoti. "Mika is doing really well in 250 and we are confident that he will be able to continue his positive trend in the top class.

"Niccol? has shown his abilities on the Ducati Desmosedici during this seasons tests and this has convinced Ducati and us to let him step up into MotoGP. Together with Ducati we have agreed to create a sort of 'Junior Team'.

"A part of me is sad that we are not able to continue with our current riders, Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli, because they have done a lot for the Alice Team during this season. I want to publically thank them for their work and for bringing us to date, two unforgettable podiums. I wish them a future rich in success and happiness."

The two new Pramac riders will have a satellite version of the Desmosedici GP9, which features a carbon fibre chassis, at their disposal next season.

Kallio joined the factory KTM team midway through his second full 125cc season, in 2003, but had just two podiums to his credit by the end of the following year. However, 2005 was a breakthrough season for the Finn, who scored his first four victories plus a further six podiums to finish second in the world championship standings.

Kallio was 125cc title runner-up once again in 2006, before making an instant impact on his debut season in the quarter-litre class, with two race wins. The 25-year-old made an excellent start to this season's championship, winning three of the first eight races, but steadily lost ground to Gilera's Marco Simoncelli - who took the title lead at round ten in Germany.

Mika then lost second in the standings to Aprilia's Alvaro Bautista and heads to the final round 15 points clear of fourth placed Alex Debon after a technical DNF at Sepang. Nevertheless, Kallio comfortably remains the top KTM rider, with the new best Austrian machine that of team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama in seventh, 63 points behind Kallio.

Canepa, Ducati's 2007 Superstock 1000 FIM Cup champion, has impressed in his role as Ducati/Bridgestone test rider this season, often outpacing the factory's regular grand prix riders - with the notable exception of world champion Casey Stoner.

The 20-year-old also made a wild-card appearance at the Czech Republic round of the World Superbike championship, qualifying a third 1098F08 sixth on the grid, but finished just 13th in race one and retired from race two.

Canepa's signing means that Ducati will maintain its tradition of fielding at least one Italian rider, since entering MotoGP in 2003.

d'Antin MotoGP, which then became Pramac Racing, has been Ducati's satellite outfit since 2004 and has so far achieved four podiums finishes - one for Ruben Xaus (2004), one for Alex Barros (2007) and two for Toni Elias (2008).

Back-to-back podiums for Elias at Brno and Misano saw Pramac and Ducati attempt to retain the Spaniard for 2009, but the Spaniard was persuaded back to Gresini Honda by the lure of factory machinery. Elias is currently twelfth in the world championship standings.

Elias' team-mate Sylvain Guintoli - who has taken a best finish of fifth so far this season and sits 29 points, but only one place, behind Elias in the championship - will move to the Crescent Suzuki BSB team next season.

A fifth Ducati Desmosedici, to be sponsored by Onde 2000 and run by the Nieto family for Sete Gibernau, looks set to be announced at Valencia.