|One of Italy’s greatest racing exports will bid farewell to racing at the end of the season|
Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), 250cc World Champion, WorldSBK and MotoGP™ vice-champion and 22-time WorldSBK race winner, has confirmed that the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship will be his last, in an emotional press conference today in Milan (Italy).
One of the greatest Italian racers of the modern area, Melandri has achieved more wins (22) and podiums (75) than any of his countrymen in World Superbike. He made a name for himself inside the MotoGP™ paddock in the late 1990s and early 2000s, setting records in the 125cc and 250cc World Championships and winning five races in the premier class, all in a career spanning twenty-plus-years. He is also one of just 24 riders to reach 1000 career points in MotoGP™.
In 2011, Melandri made the move to WorldSBK and was immediately a strong championship contender, finishing his debut year as runner-up to Carlos Checa and winning races for four different manufacturers since then (Yamaha, BMW, Aprilia & Ducati). Melandri returned this season to the Japanese manufacturer, joining forces with GRT to tackle the independent teams championship. He currently sits in 9th in the standings, with 124 points and three podiums to his name.
“The decision to retire was a very difficult one for me to make”, Melandri has admitted today. “I’d been thinking about it for some time and, before the Imola race, I finally decided to call it a day at the end of the 2019 season. I’m still competitive and I think it’s better to stop at this point, while I still enjoy racing, rather than waiting until the enjoyment and the results are more difficult to achieve”.
“Since making the decision I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders and now that everyone knows this is my final year, I’m even more motivated to push for good results in the final few races. In part it’s for me, as I’d like to go out on a high, but it’s also to repay the faith that both Yamaha and the GRT Yamaha team have shown in me. It’s been a difficult season, but they have worked so hard to help me realise my potential. They never gave up on me and I hope that my experience has helped the team adapt to racing in WorldSBK just that little bit quicker. I’m looking forward to seeing out my final season with them and I intend to give it my all, treating every lap like a qualifying lap and pushing to improve myself and bring the team the results they deserve. Then it will be time to move on and do something different with my life. For me it’s been a fantastic journey; thank you to everyone I met along the way”.
This weekend’s Geico US Round will thus be the 36-year-old’s last appearance at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where he has found tremendous success in the past, including two MotoGP™ podiums and one win in WorldSBK.
Relive the best moments from Marco’s fantastic WorldSBK career with WorldSBK VideoPass.
Five of the best… Marco Melandri Memories!
A phenomenal career in WorldSBK is coming to an end after 2019, but Marco Melandri has certainly left his mark!
He has been a part of motorcycle racing for over 20 years, but Marco Melandri has decided that he is to call time on his racing career. Still more than capable of podiums and wins on his day, Melandri has been a staple in WorldSBK since 2011, making impacts straight away. We relive five of his stand-out performances, looking back on a star-studded WorldSBK career.
Race 1 Donington Park, 2011 – Melandri’s first win!
2011 saw a new challenge in the career of Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), as he switched from MotoGP ™ to WorldSBK. Eager to impress and one of the favourites to take the title, Melandri entered the European Round at Donington Park with a goal to achieve a first win in his short WorldSBK career. In just his third WorldSBK race, Melandri powered through the field from ninth on the grid to take the lead with just two laps remaining, denying Jakub Smrz a first ever career win in the process.
It was one of the greatest achievements for the Italian, who joined a select group of riders to win in both premier classes of motorcycle racing. It was the first Italian win at Donington Park in WorldSBK for a decade and saw him back it up with a second in Race 2. Melandri had announced his presence on the WorldSBK grid in fine style.
Giving BMW their first win in WorldSBK!
In 2012, Melandri made the bold decision to join the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK outfit, partnering Leon Haslam who had been at the team a year previous. After Leon Haslam failed to deliver a win to the German manufacturer, Marco Melandri took a historic victory at Donington Park in 2012 in Race 1, giving the manufacturer a first win, whilst Leon Haslam made it BMW’s formation flying, with a 1-2 secured. It would be the first of nine wins for Melandri across the two years he was with BMW, on his way to a third-place in the championship in 2012.
His first win for Ducati; the 100th for an Italian rider in WorldSBK!
The numbers always add up for the iconic #33, with Marco Melandri taking his first win for Ducati upon his return to WorldSBK action in 2017; marking the 100th for Italy in the process. And where better to do it than at his home circuit of Misano – one of the places his decorated career first began. From tenth on the grid, Melandri carved his way through the order to take a spectacular home win, whilst others fell all around him in dramatic fashion. And if the numbers didn’t add up enough, Melandri’s first win for Ducati was the manufacturer’s 333rd…
Phillip Island 2018 – two kinds of victory!
The 2018 season opened with a bang, as Marco looked back to his old self, taking a stunning Race 1 victory to lead the championship for the first time since his return to WorldSBK. However, Race 2 proved another kind of win, with tenacity, resilience and determination setting in. Not many people have beaten Jonathan Rea in a head-to-head scrap since he had become the dominant force of WorldSBK, but the plucky, diminutive Italian had other ideas. Melandri waited until the final run to the line, using his Ducati’s horsepower to slipstream ahead of Rea by the line, taking an extraordinary win by just 0.021s. Whilst this may have been the last time he has led the WorldSBK championship, Melandri is still determined to add more wins to his tally.
Taking GRT to a first podium in their WorldSBK career!
Whilst a lot of attention was on Alvaro Bautista at the very front of WorldSBK, Marco Melandri blasted into the podium positions on the final lap of Race 1 Phillip Island at the start of this season. This podium was the 274th podium place for Yamaha in WorldSBK but the first for WorldSBK’s new team, GRT Yamaha WorldSBK. Melandri would go on to achieve more podiums with the team, with – to-date – his last one coming at Jerez in Race 2. This was his 75th podium, equaling Colin Edwards’ total.
Marco Melandri’s career: 20-plus glorious years on the world stage
From teen antics in 125cc to racking up double wins in WorldSBK, few can boast a career as long or as successful
Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) has announced that he will officially retire from active competition at the end of the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. The Qatar Round will be the final time we see the flashy Italian rider, never one to back down or avoid controversy in a career spanning twenty-plus highly successful years.
1997 was a superb year to be an Italian motorcycling fan, even by their high standards. Frankie Chili was charming fans around the WorldSBK scene, Max Biaggi managed to secure his fourth and last 250cc title, while a young Valentino Rossi scored his first world championship, in 125cc. It was also the same year where we first had the chance to witness Melandri on the world stage. Taking part in the Czech GP aged 15 years and 24 days old, he became the youngest starter in 125cc history; even though no points were scored, the first impression was a great one.
Melandri was back a few months later for the full 125cc season and wasted little time in his new home. He scored his first win in 125cc at the age of 15 years, 10 months and 20 days, a record which stood for ten years and has only been surpassed since by Scott Redding and Can Oncu. He would finish that season as best rookie and third overall; one year later, Melandri missed out on the title by a single point, after winning the infamous, season-ending 1999 Argentinian GP.
Despite this, he made the decision to move forwards and into the 250cc class, entering a fruitful three-year relationship with Aprilia in time for the new millennium. Melandri adapted swiftly to the demands of the higher-powered machine, scoring four podiums on the trot in the closing stages of 2000. A first race win would fall the following year, but 2002 would be his true breakthrough year. An unbeaten streak of six races would take him to the top of 250cc as he became the series’ youngest ever champion at the time, overthrowing Valentino Rossi’s previous record.
On the back of this already impressive resumé, Melandri’s next move was a big one. Heading into MotoGP™, the Italian rider struggled to adapt to the tricky Yamaha, scoring just 45 points in his rookie season and 75 the next, although a maiden podium was achieved in 2004.
2005 and Honda would be where Melandri found fame and form: runner-up to Rossi in 2005, scoring back-to-back wins at the end of the year. Although he finished 4th in the standings in 2006, it was also arguably his strongest to date, as he ended just 24 points behind Nicky Hayden and conquered three race wins.
While Melandri would no longer reach those heights in the premier class, he remained competitive, riding for Honda, Kawasaki and Ducati between 2007 and 2010, picking up a few podiums along the way.
By 2011, Melandri felt the need of a change of scenery and found it in the WorldSBK paddock. Just like his Grand Prix debut, this one also came onboard a Yamaha, although in this case it was a much more successful initiation as he finished the year as runner-up to Carlos Checa, taking an impressive four race wins and 15 podiums along the way.
He changed manufacturer once again in 2012, this time leading BMW’s new WorldSBK project. The German giant had never won an SBK® event before his arrival – they finished the year with six, all bearing Melandri’s name. A hefty crash in the penultimate round of the year proved to be costly however, as he was forced out of the second race of the day when the championship lead was still within touching distance. 29.5 points was the gap between himself and winner Max Biaggi at the end of the season.
Melandri’s second year with BMW proved to be more successful in terms of points, yet he finished the year fourth in the standings and with fewer race wins. That led him to Aprilia for 2014, a bittersweet season for the Italian: six race wins, but 4th again as teammate Sylvain Guintoli claimed the WorldSBK crown.
After a short-lived return to MotoGP™ in 2015, Melandri took a sabbatical before joining the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati squad for 2017 and 2018, where he racked up another three race wins, taking his tally all the way up to 22, more than any Italian rider before him. This season, he opted to join GRT Yamaha for their first foray onto the WorldSBK scene. An Italian squad and the manufacturer that first brought him success in WorldSBK: a fitting end to a phenomenal career. But rest assured that, with 15 races remaining in 2019, the final moments of joy in this incredible journey are likely yet to come.