Marco Melandri has admitted that his season on the ex-works Hayate Kawasaki has exceeded all his expectations.
The Italian was left in limbo when Kawasaki ended its official involvement in MotoGP at the start of the year. Ducati refugee Melandri had signed for the factory team just before the board's shock decision, but after some initial skepticism decided to join the new Hayate team hurriedly put together to run a Kawasaki on a 'customer' basis.
He currently holds 10th in the championship and has become a top ten fixture despite his bike lacking the development programs available to the fully-fledged factory teams.
"This year, at the beginning of the season, everyone expected that I would finish last at every race," said Melandri. "But we did good races in the dry, we had the podium at Le Mans, and now we can fight for seventh or eighth at every race, which is much better than what we thought at the beginning. But when you are on track, you don't care what you are riding, you just want to do your best."
Kawasaki allowed the Hayate team to be created after series organizer Dorna urged the manufacturer to fulfil its commitment to the championship even though it was withdrawing its official program.
The Hayate project was never intended as a long-term arrangement, and Melandri – who has already signed to return to Gresini Honda for 2010 – said his current crew had proved their worth in difficult circumstances and deserved to find new employment.
"The problem we had this winter made all the team even closer. I'm pretty happy with them. They're working very hard, they work wwell together and they make me feel very comfortable.
"This team looks like it is going to be closing at the end of the year, and I hope they can find good jobs for next year and good teams, because they've worked very well and they've got me back to enjoying riding the bike."
Melandri has crashed out of the past two races, falling from seventh to 10th in the championship as a result. He is eager to make amends at Misano and beyond.
"I lost a lot of points for the championship at the last two races, so I just want to have very good races, thinking about it day by day, and get back in the battle for seventh in the championship," he added. "This track could be very good for me. If we work well during practice we can fight for seventh or eighth position maybe. It's not going to be easy for us, the first part of the race is difficult because the bike with a lot of fuel and new tires is very, very aggressive, and very difficult to keep good corner speed. But I'm looking forward. We still have five races to go."