Aruba Ducati’s 2017 signing Marco Melandri believes there are already a lot of expectations for the 2017 season when he settles down alongside Chaz Davies in the factory World Superbike team.
But the pint-sized Italian star says he is prepared to get back to the top step of the podium even though the opportunity he has been still hasn’t sunk in. He has already tested a production Panigale at the Adria circuit (see picture below) and said the first feeling was 'fantastic'.
“On one hand the first feeling was happiness. On the other hand it hasn’t really sunk in that it’s a return with such a top bike and top team. After such a difficult time it’s still hard to believe that an opportunity like this has come along. My desire to race and do well is even bigger than before. A time away from racing has made me reflect, improve on my weaknesses and made me keener than ever to race and get results,” said Melandri.
“This winter I trained a lot with motocross until a few months ago. Then when I saw there was a chance to come back to WorldSBK I slowed down a bit…because it’s always risky! I concentrated on the bicycle, and kept going to the gym to stay in shape. And spent some quality time with my family, then with the help of my sister and Manuela we’ve been working on a new project that will be revealed in September.”
“As to how everything went, I just said ‘Yes, ok!’ For me the priority was to have a competitive bike and a top team like them. The Team Manager knows me well because we worked together for a year and he knows I need to be 100% convinced and I’ll work to the best of my ability. I have a good relationship with Ducati.
“My expectations are high. I wanted to come back only if I would be able to fight to win. It won’t be easy because the level is so high and the Kawasakis are so strong – and Chaz has years on the Ducati and he’s the reference on this bike. And I’m sure other bikes will improve next year, so it won’t be easy.”
Melandri will partner Welshman Davies, who has been with the team since 2014 and took the first win for the Panigale – as well as having emerged as a surefire title contender. It’s not the first time the two have shared a garage. “I was team-mates with Chaz in 2013 and everything was fine. I like to concentrate on my own way and he does the same – the important thing is to respect each other and then it’s normal that your first rival is your teammate. In my opinion it’s better to have a fast teammate, because it makes you have to push all the time to stay on top.”
Of course, the expectation around an Italian former MotoGP winner on an Italian bike will be huge. “For sure, I know there are a lot of expectations. But when you have everything you need to be able to give your best, that’s ok. It’s just another reason why I can’t wait to get started! I’m sure that a lot of people are expecting a lot of us, and I’m ready to face the difficult moments – which I’m sure there will be – but I see it all as a positive.”