Just two days ago we told you that Marco Melandri would be headed to the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati World Superbike team, replacing fellow Italian Davide Giugliano. That news has been publicly confirmed today, with Melandri set to join Chaz Davies on the factory WSBK team.
The move is a surprising return for Marco Melandri back into motorcycle racing, as the Italian took a hiatus during the 2016 season, after a less-than-amicable departure from the struggling Aprilia MotoGP team last year.
Melandri’s reputation as a racer, and perhaps his desperation to come back to motorcycle racing, comes with a price though, as the former 250GP World Champion is said to be forgoing a salary from Ducati Corse. Instead, Melandri is bringing his own money to the team, and likely has a performance-based pay schedule.
“I’m really excited to come back to racing, it’s a dream come true,” Melandri stated. “I always said I was only interested in a top bike and top team, and I could not have asked for more. I kept following WorldSBK closely, and I’m confident the Panigale R can perfectly suit my riding style,” said Melandri, while talking to WorldSBK.com
“We’ll just have to take one step at a time, but the potential is surely high. I know it won’t be easy to get back up to speed, but I have all the time to step on the bike, do laps and make sure I’m ready for the first test: to this end, I will skip the holidays to train on a street version of the Panigale R.”
After a lull in racing results, Ducati has high hopes for both its MotoGP and World Superbike factory team efforts, and the pressure to win shows in the lengths the Italian company has gone through in order to secure victory.
As such, part of Melandri’s financial situation in coming back to WSBK can be attributed to the costs Ducati Corse had to endure in order to secure the services of Jorge Lorenzo in MotoGP, and Chaz Davies in World Superbike – both riders that Ducati views as central to it winning another world title in each class.
In World Superbike, with the Panigale R expected to be Ducati’s superbike racing platform for at least another season, Davies is the most well-suited rider to carry the Italian marque’s standard.
And with Melandri, Ducati hopes to find and benefit from some of the genius that they had hoped Giugliano would show, but never realized. Melandri is a wild card for Ducati, one who on his day, can fight not only for podiums, but also race wins. If the stars align, Melandri could even be a title contender.
As such, the Davies/Melandri duo should be a strong package to go against the Kawasaki riders, Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes. Melandri comes to the Ducati World Superbike team with 19 wins and 49 podiums, in just 100 races in WSBK.
Expect 2017 to be Melandri’s audition for a larger role in the World Superbike Championship.
Source: Ducati Corse