Former 250cc world champion Marco Melandri has announced his retirement from racing, signalling that the 2019 WorldSBK championship will be his final season. Speaking at a press conference in Italy, the 36-year-old said the decision to retire was a difficult choice to make, though one he’d been thinking about for some time.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The veteran Italian currently rides in WorldSBK with the privateer GRT Yamaha team, his best season came in 2002 when he won the 250cc Grand Prix World Championship, before progressing to MotoGP the following year. Melandri joined the WSBK paddock in 2011 and has ridden for Yamaha, BMW, Aprilia and Ducati, finally returning to Yamaha for the 2019 season.
“[The good results] 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.”
Since joining the series in 2011, Melandri has achieved 22 wins and 75 podium finishes, including three podiums this season, and lines up for the next round of the championship at Laguna Seca over 12-14 July.
Words Pete Vorst