As we expected, the GRT Yamaha squad is moving out of the World Supersport Championship, and into the World Superbike Championship for the 2019 season.
Riding for the GRT Yamaha squad is not who we expected however, though it will be two big names in the sport: former world champions Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese.
Melandri makes the defection from Ducati, where he was reportedly paying for his ride, to Yamaha. He hopes to best his fifth place in the 2018 championship standings. Meanwhile, Cortese comes into the World Superbike racing having just won the World Supersport Championship title.
Factory-backed in World Supersport last year, the GRT Yamaha team will keeps its factory status next year as well, which leaves Yamaha with four factory-backed YZF-R1 racing machines on the grid in 2019.
“To win the WorldSSP championship and then step up to WorldSBK with the GRT Yamaha Team is like a dream come true for me,” said former Moto3 Champion Sandro Cortese. “I’m super happy to be a part of this new project and, although it’s a big step, I am really looking forward to the challenge.”
“I can’t wait to jump on the Yamaha YZF-R1 for the first time in Jerez later this month to start the familiarization process. It will be like Christmas for me; I’ve never ridden such a big bike before and I am like a small kid who can’t wait to get his present!”
Both Cortese and Melandri will have to ready themselves for the new three-race format that is coming to the WorldSBK race weekend, as the series continues to look for a way to lure in two-wheeled racing fans to the track, and on TV.
Of course, the benchmark for the GRT Yamaha outfit will be the other Yamahas in the paddock, more specifically the PATA Yamaha squad of Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes.
Many riders have been linked to the GRT Yamaha for next year, perhaps giving a nod to how highly regarded this team is within the WorldSBK paddock. As such, today’s news dashes the hopes of any who wishing to see Cameron Beaubier or Tom Sykes in the team’s livery.
With the blue bikes looking like they are getting closer to the status of the green and red ones, the 2019 WorldSBK season could be an interesting one, full of close battles.