Courtesy of Yamaha Racing
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Marco Melandri, has announced that he intends to retire from racing immediately after the final round of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship in Qatar. The 36-year-old Italian’s decision to hang up his leathers will bring to a close a World Championship career that has spanned three decades.
15-year-old Melandri burst onto the world stage in 1998 and immediately made his mark, taking his first win at Assen to become the youngest ever Grand Prix winner, a record that stood for 10 years. He went on to win once more that year and ended his debut Grand Prix season third in the World Championship. The following season Melandri won five races but missed out on being crowned 125cc World Champion by just a single point.
More success came with a step up to the 250cc World Championship. Melandri dominated the class in 2002, taking nine race wins on his way to being crowned 250cc World Champion. A move to the premier class followed, with Melandri’s most successful MotoGP season coming in 2005 when he won the final two races and finished second in the World Championship to Valentino Rossi.
In 2011 Melandri made the switch from MotoGP to WorldSBK, winning four races in his first season aboard Yamaha’s YZF-R1 to finish the year as vice-champion. Since making his debut in the premier production class, the Italian has secured 75 podium finishes, 22 of which were race wins, making him one of the most successful riders on the WorldSBK grid.
And while these results are already impressive, Melandri is determined to add to them before finally hanging up his leathers in Qatar and bringing to a close an incredible racing career.
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK
“The decision to retire was a very difficult one for me to make. 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.”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“I was surprised when Marco informed me of his decision to retire. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy step for him to take, but we respect his reasons for doing so. Marco’s decision will bring to an end an incredibly successful career that has seen him racing and winning at the very highest level for many years. I’m pleased that, for a part of this long and distinguished career, Marco was a committed member of the Yamaha Racing family, where his contribution to our success was significant. In 2011 he raced the Yamaha YZF-R1 to second place in the WorldSBK Championship and, while this season has so far been a difficult one, he has maintained the level of professionalism for which he is renowned and worked tirelessly to achieve the results of which we know he is capable. Marco’s achievements in what has been a remarkable career are already impressive, but Yamaha and the GRT Yamaha team are committed to helping him bow out on a high note during the final races of the 2019 season. On behalf of Yamaha Motor Europe, but also personally, I’d like to thank Marco for his contribution to Yamaha and to motorsport. We wish him every success for the future.”