Gibernau's MotoGP return confirmed.
Thursday, 23rd October 2008
Sete Gibernau to ride a fifth Ducati Desmosedici for the new Francisco Hernando Onde 2000 team in the 2009 MotoGP World Championship.
As rumoured, former double MotoGP World Championship runner-up Sete Gibernau will end his two-year retirement and return to premier-class action next season.
It was officially announced at Valencia on Thursday evening that the Spaniard will ride a fifth Ducati Desmosedici GP9 for the new Francisco Hernando Onde 2000 squad, run by '12+1' world champion Angel Nieto's sons Pablo and Gelete.
"I'm excited about what it means to be a MotoGP rider," said Gibernau. "I've come back to enjoy it again and it's a good opportunity for me. That's my main goal; to enjoy riding. I'm still open to learning again, even at 35... I'm going to have to work very hard and I'm ready for that."
Gibernau's Desmosedici will be dressed in white, black and gold colours next year, although his racing number remains unknown. Sete's traditional #15 was taken by Alex de Angelis this season and the bike present at the launch had a question mark in place of a racing number.
Gibernau was Honda's leading rider - and Valentino Rossi's closest title rival - during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, but the pressure of fighting the dominant Italian seemed to take its toll and Sete was left winless in 2005, despite five pole positions.
The Spaniard then moved to the factory Ducati team for the 2006 season, when bad luck and injuries prevented a podium finish. Sete lost his seat to future world champion Casey Stoner for 2007.
After a year away from the racetrack, Gibernau burst back onto the MotoGP scene when his presence as a spectator at June's Catalan Grand Prix resulted in an invitation from Ducati to test an early version of next year's GP9.
Gibernau - a former Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Ducati grand prix rider - set a best time of 1min 51.7sec on the radical carbon-fibre framed machine at Mugello, effectively equally the fastest lap by Alice's Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli during the Italian Grand Prix.
During his second test Gibernau also got the chance to try this year's GP8 - with which he dropped his best lap time down to a 1min 50.5sec, 0.6sec faster than Marco Melandri and 0.5sec behind Stoner's best Mugello race lap.
Ducati Corse's general manager Filippo Preziosi hoped that Gibernau's immediate pace with the GP8 would 'spur on' Melandri and Elias, who were both still struggling badly to adapt to the machine - Sylvain Guintoli having shown signs of progress.
Gibernau's third and final test for Ducati, in late July, saw him repeat his strong race pace and also set a qualifying tyre time good enough for eighth on the Italian GP grid. The Spaniard now looked certain to replace Melandri during the second half of the season, but the Melandri/Ducati split never happened and Gibernau was left on the sidelines - although clearly not forgotten.
Gibernau, a nine time 500cc/MotoGP race winner, claimed his most recent victory at the 2004 Qatar Grand Prix, a race which saw Rossi demoted to the back of the grid due to overnight grid cleaning by his team. Rightly or wrongly, Rossi blamed Gibernau for the 'unsporting' protest and, after the race, furiously declared that Gibernau 'would not win again'. Although relations between the pair subsequently improved, Rossi's 'curse' is yet to be broken.
Onde 2000 currently runs Pablo Nieto on KTM machinery in the 125cc World Championship. Pablo - a 125GP rider for the past ten seasons, during which he has claimed one race victory, eight podiums and three pole positions - has already announced that he will retire from racing and join brother Gelete in a management role for the team's 2009 MotoGP graduation.
Ducati's 2009 MotoGP line-up will thus be its biggest ever - featuring Stoner and Nicky Hayden at Ducati Marlboro, Mika Kallio and Niccolo Canepa at Pramac and Gibernau with Onde 2000. Gibernau deal has been helped by the single tyre rule, which ended the need for Ducati's Tyre Test Team.
Gibernau's deal means the full time MotoGP grid will increase from 18 to 19 riders next season.
Sete Gibernau - MotoGP career highlights:
500cc/MotoGP: 9 (wins), 30 (podiums), 13 (poles), 8 (fastest laps).
2006: Ducati 13th in world championship.
2005: Honda 7th in world championship.
2004: Honda 2nd in world championship (4 wins).
2003: Honda 2nd in world championship (4 wins).
2002: Suzuki 16th in world championship.
2001: Suzuki 9th in world championship (1 win).
2000: Honda 15th in world championship.
1999: Honda 5th in world championship.
1998: Honda 11th in world championship.
1997: Yamaha 13th in world championship.
Gibernau's MotoGP return confirmed. | MOTOGP News | Crash.Net