The wobble and weave that Marco Melandri’s official Ducati Panigale has displayed since the beginning of the year is getting worse, not better, as his team get increasingly desperate to fix the problem. And the rider gets more frustrated all the time.
On Saturday at Assen Melandri was asked if the problem that kept him down in sixth place was the same. “Same problem as before - we tried something to improve this problem but we made so much worse another problem,” Melandri told bikesportnews.com.
Melandri has a reputation for always having his race bikes steer very easily, and on the complicated Panigale maybe that is half his problem? It was put to him but firmly rebuffed. “No. The setting is the same as Rinaldi. It is very a frustrating situation. I was sixth. I am not here to do sixth.
"After three laps on the straights I have to stand up on the footrests, I cannot breathe, I cannot go full throttle on the straight and it is very difficult. It is impossible, but that is what I have now and I have to do my best. Everybody is working hard but we have no solution.”
When asked if this problem is destroying his season he agreed. “I have been fast in qualifying this season that I have never been fast in during my racing life. So the speed is there and normally during the race I always feel better than in qualifying. So for sure I have everything to fight in the race but I need to have a good package.
"It is impossible to understand because on Friday the problem is so-so, then it becomes worse, worse, and during the race it increases a lot lap-by-lap. By the end of race bike was moving everywhere, so much and I cannot use power on the straight because the bike is shaking. I try to gain time in braking but after a few laps the front tyre is gone.
"To try to stabilise the bike we also lose the performance in turning because we tried different set-ups. We are changing races set-ups all the time - but only for this problem.”
In PI Melandri was able to wobble down the straights, but at a pace to give him a stunning double win. What has changed for Melandri?
“There in PI the bike was moving but on the limit I could take full throttle” he said. “I could use it with a normal setup. Here I cannot use it with a normal set-up. We are just moving the bike all the time to see if we understand something. But when we arrive at a race, always with a worse set-up.”
On Sunday he said, “We tried to change it today to improve our problems from yesterday, but indeed we made it even worse and it was so difficult to ride. We know we can fight on the podium and the win but it is not an easy time for us.
"We do not give up. Even if I was fighting for not the best position I was fighting with the same energy as I fight for a win, but I could not win my battle with Jordi Torres. He was riding good and I was struggling.”
Melandri had a clear lead exiting Phillip Island in February, but now he is third overall, 44 points behind Rea.