For a long time, the offer from Puccetti and Kawasaki was Marco Melandri's only certainty. However, his manager, Alberto Vergani, kept working on several fronts and, since the Yamaha doors remained closed to him, he moved forward with a difficult negotiation that paid off in the end: the Ducati deal.
Paolo Ciabatti had admitted it to us two weeks ago, pointing out the weak points, the age and the previous history - the difficult 2008 season alongside Stoner in MotoGP - but also the strong points, Marco's good media presence in a championship desperately in search of celebrities. A definite attraction for the sponsor, Aruba.
In the end, this was probably the prevailing element, along with the fact that Melandri is arriving with 'zero parameters'. This is no small attraction for the Borgo Panigale manufacturer that bled itself dry to sign Jorge Lorenzo.
However, do not be fooled into thinking that a minimum or even lack of engagement means zero salary: to the contrary, Vergani ensured a rich contract - one year with an option in favour of Ducati for the following year - based on the results achieved. That means that Marco will earn based on his results.
To be honest, we don't think that he will not produce them. However, we will need to see how the rider from Ravenna fits in with the team and, above all, how he will feel astride a bike as difficult as the Panigale. In fact, his albatros is the 2008 Desmosedici, the bike that Casey Stoner rode to 6 wins and 11 podiums, finishing second in the championship and on which Melandri finished 17th in the championship.
Here is the press release with the official announcement:
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team finalized its line-up for the 2017 WorldSBK Championship, confirming Chaz Davies and signing an agreement with Marco Melandri. Chaz and Marco have already been teammates in the past with great results, their common goal is to fight for the victory at each round and aim at the Riders’ and Manufacturers’ world titles.
Chaz Davies, 29, is currently in the middle of his third season with Ducati and, thus far, has secured 9 wins and 32 podiums overall on the Panigale R, showing constant progress and winning the hearts of many Ducati fans.
“I’m extremely happy to renew my professional relationship with Ducati for two more seasons – said Davies – he continuity element is really important in our job, and so far we’ve made great strides and got progressively closer to our goal. Now we can fight for the win practically on every track, and I’m confident we can make further improvements. Moreover, to race for Ducati is something special: everything is done with heart and passion, you really feel part of a family and have a direct connection between the production and racing. It’s going to be exciting.”
Thirty-four-year-old Melandri, on the other hand, will return to the production-based series, where he has claimed 19 wins and 49 overall podiums in 100 races.
“I’m really excited to come back to racing, it’s a dream come true – said Melandri – I always said I was only interested in a top bike and top team, and I could not have asked for more. I kept following WorldSBK closely, and I’m confident the Panigale R can perfectly suit my riding style. We’ll just have to take one step at a time, but the potential is surely high. I know it won’t be easy to get back up to speed, but I have all the time to step on the bike, do laps and make sure I’m ready for the first test: to this end, I will skip the holidays to train on a street version of the Panigale R.”
The 2016 championship will mark Davide Giugliano’s last season within the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team. In three years with the squad, the Italian rider has shown great speed and resilience, taking 10 podiums so far despite being sidelined for most of 2015 with two serious injuries. Ducati and Aruba.it would like to thank Davide for his efforts, wishing him all the best for his future career and reiterating their commitment to give him the best possible tools to achieve his first WorldSBK win.
“I had a great time with Ducati – said Giugliano – I learned a lot and was given a wealth of experience to draw upon, which is really important for a young rider. We also faced some difficult times, especially last year when I was badly injured, but we’ve always stayed close. We decided to take different paths, but our relationship remains strong: I’m still young, so we may rejoin forces in the future. I sincerely wish Melandri the best and would like to thank everyone in Ducati, especially Paolo Ciabatti, and Aruba.it for all their support. It’s been a great journey, which has yielded great results despite the fact that we would have liked to do more, but I’ll give my best until the end of the season to achieve bigger goals.”
“Chaz Davies has become a key member of the Ducati family and he won the hearts of the fans with the results he has brought home astride the Panigale R, so we’re happy to announce that he will ride with us for two more years - said Luigi Dall’Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager - Chaz Chaz has shown great progress and we’re confident he can take our bike to even higher grounds. In 2017, he will ride alongside Marco Melandri, who took upon the challenge with great enthusiasm. Marco is a talented rider, he has already achieved prestigious results in WorldSBK and we’re confident that the year spent without racing has not undermined his qualities. We’re obviously sad for Davide Giugliano, who will part ways with us at the end of the year, and we wish him nothing but the best. Davide proved to have great competitiveness, taking many podiums and fastest laps, and has given a crucial input towards the development of the WorldSBK-spec Panigale R. We would like to thank him and guarantee we will give him all our support until the last race to help him achieve the results he deserves.”
“Given that the riders’ choice is among the most important and difficult to make, as the available seats are always less than what we would ideally offer, we had to resort to our ambition and courage while taking all the necessary time to finalize the 2017 line-up - added Stefano Cecconi, Aruba S.p.A CEO and Team Principal - Chaz has shown he can fight for the victory each round. Davide is a young and fast rider, who can become even more competitive, so I hope it’s a ‘see you again’ and not a ‘farewell’ between us. Marco’s resume speaks for itself and puts more pressure, at any rate positive, on us: we want to help him achieve the result that, surely not due to a lack in talent, has eluded him in WorldSBK so far.”