Copied from SPEED
The very latest news on signings is as follows:
Carlos Checa will join Loris Capirossi on the works Marlboro Ducati team.
John Hopkins will continue as Kenny Roberts Junior´s team mate at Suzuki. The deal should be signed today, Saturday, between new Suzuki team manager Paul Denning and Hopkin´s manager.
Ruben Xaus is anxious to sign with the Fortuna Yamaha Tech3 team. His chances of a Telefónica Movistar Gresini Honda ride have faded because Honda have other plans to move Alex Barros there (while Fausto Gresini is also taking to Italian Marco Melandri, currently with the Yamaha Tech3 team). However, according to Luis d´Antin, owner of the d´Antin Ducati team, Ruben signed a two-year deal with his team for 2004-5 and can only break his commitments by paying a stiff release fee. Yamaha are very interested in Xaus, but are still undertaking legal actions against Brazilian Alex Barros due to his withdrawal from the second year of his contract with the factory Yamaha team in order to ride for Honda this season. Yamaha are very reluctant to get into similar legal tangles with the d´Antin team. Xaus´ manager, however, claims that the d´Antin team did not officially notify Xaus in writing that they were taking up their option for 2005. The lawyer representing d´Antin says that the two-year contract that binds the Spaniard to the Spanish team is solid and binding.
This is exactly the kind of legal wrangling that Altadis (owner of the Gauloises and Fortuna tobacco brands) and Yamaha want to avoid, and places the Xaus-Yamaha deal in some doubt.
Troy Bayliss is said to have an offer to return to World Superbike with the works Ducati Corse team alongside current World Champion James Toseland, but the veteran Australian (34) is talking to Kawasaki about joining Shinya Nakano on the green machines. If this happens German Alex Hoffman will be relegated to test rider and wild card status.
If Bayliss goes to World Superbike, Neil Hodgson, who makes his final ride for the d´Antin Ducati team this weekend, seems headed to the AMA Superbike championship with the Austin Ducati team to ride a Michelin-shod Ducati 999F05 as team mate to Eric Bostrom on the factory backed Austin Ducati team. If Bayliss goes to Kawasaki, however, Hodgson might be induced to return to the Ducati Corse World Superbike team. In that case the second Ducati ride in the AMA series might be offered to Frenchman Regis Laconi, Italian Lorenzo Lanzi or, perhaps, American Kurtis Roberts…or to another Europen SBK rider.
Although Kenny Roberts´ Proton team has tested the KTM V4 and plans to scrap their current V5 engine, talk again surfaced here about the possibility of the UK-based American team obtaining Ducati Desmosedici engines in 2005. Kurtis Roberts is back after missing several races due to injury, and is not certain where he will ride next year.
European journalists continue to speculate that Ben Bostrom may ride with the Klaffi Honda team in World Superbike, but American sources suggest that he will ride with the Erion Honda team in the AMA. Italian journalists theorize that the American might ride the AMA series making occasional wild card starts in World Superbike, but the fact that World Superbike runs exclusively Pirelli tires and Erion is expected to continue with Dunlop would make such an arrangement improbable, awkward and, probably, contractually unlikely.
If Bostrom does not take the Klaffi Honda SBK ride, that might offer some hope to Spain´s Gregorio Lavilla, currently a Suzuki MotoGP test rider, but bumped from his former Alstare Coronas Suzuki team by the signings of Troy Corser and Yukio Kagayama.