Marco Melandri is one of the top figures in the Superbike World Championship. In six years between 2011 and 2018, the man from Ravenna always finished the world championship in the top five, in 2011 he was runner-up in Yamaha and third overall in BMW the following year. Melandri won 22 of his 189 races and was on the podium 75 times for Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW and Ducati. His last season was in 2019 for the Yamaha satellite troupe GRT. Because he wasn’t listened to when he was developing, he gave up frustrated at the end of October at the age of 37.
Then in mid-July the sensation: Melandri comes back from retirement and signed a contract with Barni Ducati for 2020, the successor to the long-term injured Leon Camier.
“It’s really a strange story,” grinned Melandri when he met SPEEDWEEK.com in the paddock of the Circuito de Jerez. «Just a month ago, I didn’t think about making a comeback. Barni needed a driver for the tests last winter because Camier was injured. But I didn’t think about it, I was tired from racing. During the lockdown, I had time to charge and shutdown my batteries. A couple of weeks ago I got a message from my manager Alberto Vergani when I had just been driving my private machine for a day. He wrote to me that Barni was looking for a driver – nothing more. They canceled all of my scheduled bike races for this year, so I looked at the calendar. All races in Europe are on beautiful tracks that suit me and the motorcycle. I realized that I had the chance to drive the V4R. If I don’t do it now, never again. I had a lot of fun since I retired and wanted to race with an e-mountain bike. They were all canceled and I lacked the adrenaline – I need it. »
At 37 years, eleven months and 25 days, Marco Melandri will contest his 190th race in the Superbike World Championship next Saturday.
Do you only want to race this year or is it also conceivable in 2021? “Ask me about the first three events,” smiled the Ducati returnee. «It won’t be easy. I tested for a day, in reality it was only two and a half hours. »
How Good Is The Ducati V4R? Alvaro Bautista won 16 races last year, Scott Redding was on the podium in all three races at the start of the season in Australia. But all other Ducati drivers have trouble tuning.
“I think it depends on how the rider and the bike fit together,” said Melandri. «My feeling on the first day was not too bad, but I didn’t drive a racing machine for seven months before that. And I was traveling alone, so I had no comparison. I will know where I am on Friday. I have a certain idea, this dictates my feeling. But whether this is confirmed when I’m on the track with other pilots … Jerez has always been a good track for me. But the bike and the team are new to me, the heat conditions are very difficult. Fortunately, the others have not raced for a long time – but I’m sure I miss kilometers on the bike. »