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Portimao WorldSBK: Melandri puts Ducati sacking behind him

After the disappointment of being told he would not be returning to ride for the works Ducati WorldSBK team in the new era of V-four racing, Marco Melandri took his Aruba Panigale to a strong second place in race one at Portimao.

He said it was just another race but, his determination from Friday onwards was clear to all. But, he knew the task of overhauling Rea was as good – or as bad - as impossible in race one.   

“I had no pace for Johnny today and I knew before the race also, but I tried anyway, at the beginning,” said Melandri. “For a few laps it was close but in sector T5-T8 he was much faster than me, and even in the last sector. The plan was to try to pass him and try to block his rhythm, but it was too risky at the beginning, so I preferred to let him bring me out of the group.


"It was boring to be alone, but it was better than to be behind, in the group. It was not an easy race and when you are alone – it is boring because it is easy to lose focus – but it was the best race I could do today.”

With his compatriot Lorenzo Savadori on an increasingly competitive Aprilia rift behind him, Melandri still felt confident he could beat him. Savadori was to crash out as Melandri upped the pace in the middle of the race anyway, but Melandri felt he had him covered.

“I think I had a bit more than him, and at the beginning he was very close to me, we slowed down in 1’43s for a few laps, then I came back into the 1’42s and he was losing a bit,” said Melandri. “I knew he was going to struggle more than me for the end of the race. I am disappointed because I would like to see him on the podium, it should be nice for me, but I am sorry for him.”

Race two may be another Rea benefit, even if he and Melandri will start off the third row, but Marco is ready to try again at least.

“Tomorrow, starting from the third row is not easy, and we have to try to improve the bike set-up a bit, and it can be interesting if we can get a good start,” he said.

As a rider looking for a job next year, it is potentially a positive for Melandri to see so many other competitive bikes around. He thinks machine performance has closed up between all the top team, at least.

“I think the Yamaha is always at the front now, and Aprilia since three or four races ago they have grown up a lot,” said a former Yamaha and Aprilia WorldSBK rider. “For the championship, more manufacturers makes it is better for everyone.”

Have already used the ‘B-word’ – boring – about some aspects of race one Melandri thinks the track itself is partially to blame for what eventually ended up as a kind of intensely fast but spread out contest at Portimao.

Without Eugene Laverty, the pole man, being knocked off by Xavi Fores, the race could have been a whole lot more interesting. “Eugene has always been very fast here, but we will see tomorrow if Eugene has good pace or he struggles a bit. For sure this track is not easy to make a group race because you use the power only one time, on the main straight.

"You play with the throttle all the time. So, if you are not 100% with the bike it is easy to lose in every corner. It is not like another track where you can lose in one corner, gain in another. All the corners are so close so that if you make a mistake in one, you make a mistake in the next ones. The track is very technical and it does not help to make a race with all the riders together. And the lead pace was very fast.”

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