Marco Melandri has signed a one-year contract to race with Aprilia‘s factory World Superbike team to ride the RSV4 for the 2014 season. The Ravenna, Italy, native will join the returning Sylvain Guintoli, taking the place of Eugene Laverty on the factory team.
The move also reunites Melandri with Aprilia; Melandri raced three seasons on an Aprilia RSV250 in the 250cc Grand Prix championship, winning the title in 2002 for his first, and so far, only world title. After that championship season, Melandri moved up to the MotoGP class, racing on machines from Yamaha, Honda, Ducati and Kawasaki.
Melandri spent the last three seasons racing in WSBK, finishing second in the championship with Yamaha in 2011. After Yamaha withdrew from the series, Melandri moved on to BMW, finishing third in 2012 and fourth this season with three wins. BMW also ended its involvement in the series following the 2013 season, leading Melandri to seek another new employer.
Strange fact: since 2009, Melandri has raced for three manufacturers who then decided to withdraw from a world championship racing series; first was Kawasaki’s MotoGP program, followed by Yamaha and now, BMW. Aprilia should offer more stability, though Melandri’s contract is for just one season.
“In all these years Aprilia has demonstrated its worthiness in racing, winning one world title after another, so I am sure that I will find an environment where we are always ready to compete for victory,” says Melandri. “From a technical point of I am quite anxious to race on the RSV4, a bike that I have done battle with many times on the track. I think that she and I will … get along well, but the track, the first testing sessions and above all the races to come will give us the answer to that one.”
Romano Albesiano, Aprilia’s new racing manager, says he expects Melandri will adapt easily to the RSV4.
“Marco is a rider that we know well. He has already been a part of the Aprilia family, winning a fantastic world championship with our brand. His qualities certainly need no confirmation,” says Albesiano. “He has demonstrated that he is capable of fighting for the title from the first round even in a Championship that is new to him. I’m sure that he’ll do well astride our RSV4, a bike that in my opinion is well suited for Marco’s riding style.”
With Melandri’s signing, the focus now shifts to where Laverty will end up. The Irish racer finished second this season to Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, and is reportedly close to announcing a contract with the FIXI Suzuki team.