Ever since Sete Gibernau turned up at the Catalunya Grand Prix at Barcelona, and spent a lot of time in both the Kawasaki and Ducati garages, rumors have grown increasingly stronger that the Spanish former GP star would be back in MotoGP next year. After testing the Ducati at Mugello, and the problems which Marco Melandri had been having, it was even suggested that Gibernau could have made a reentry into MotoGP after the Summer break.
So prevalent were the rumors, that eventually, it seemed as if Gibernau had taken over the role of "default rider" from Max Biaggi: Whenever the possible riders for an empty seat in MotoGP were discussed, it became almost compulsory to mention Gibernau's name as well. And each time Gibernau was automatically linked with a ride, the plausibility of his return diminished.
Now, though, it seems we were wrong to doubt him. The Dutch magazine MOTO73.nl is reporting that Sete Gibernau has signed a contract to race next season with Ducati. Details are sketchy at the moment, and it is unclear which team Gibernau will actually be riding for, but with the factory Marlboro Ducati team full up - Nicky Hayden's switch to Ducati is not yet confirmed, but seems almost inevitable - that would seem to imply that he will be riding for the satellite Alice Ducati team.
However, the role of the Alice team is very much that of a junior team, one where young riders are given a chance to mature, and that is not a description which fits Gibernau at all. What's more, the names of 250 contender Mika Kallio and the Ducati test rider Niccolo Canepa keep popping up whenever the Alice team is mentioned, and the chances of those two filling the Alice seats seems very good.
There is another option, which is gaining momentum, and that is that Ducati could field a 5th bike next year. The expected switch to a single tire rule would free up the resources used by the Bridgestone test team, leaving Ducati with a spare bike. Strong rumors emanating from Spain say that this bike will be made available to a new team to be run by the Onde 2000 team, which is currently active in the 125 series and is sponsored by a Spanish construction company, and that Onde 2000 will sign Gibernau. Even better news for Gibernau is that he will be reunited with his trusted chief mechanic Juan Martinez, the man he worked with at Gresini Honda.
More details of the deal when they emerge or are made public.