Marco Melandri will become the latest MotoGP rider to defect to the World Superbike Championship after he was confirmed as having signed with Yamaha for 2011.
The Italian has been the subject of rumours linking him to a switch to the series in recent weeks, but while it was originally anticipated that he had been approached by BMW, it is with Yamaha that he will contest the 2011 season.
Coming on the back of the announcement that Cal Crutchlow will move to Tech 3 Yamaha in MotoGP next season, long-time grand prix racer Melandri subsequently takes his place.
Reuniting with the manufacturer that gave him his break in MotoGP back in 2003, Melandri follows in the footsteps of Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa
and Sylvain Guintoli et al in turning his back on grand prix racing in favour of a move to the Superbike arena.
It is a challenge that Melandri is thrilled to be accepting, the 28-year-old expressing his confidence that he will be challenging for the title in his first season.
“I'm very happy with this new challenge, it's a big change and I want to fight for world superbike wins,” said Melandri, who finished runner-up to Valentino Rossi with Gresini Honda in 2005. “It's nice to be back with Yamaha; I know many people there; I was very young when I rode with them before, now I'm much more mature.
“As the reigning 2009 champions The Yamaha Sterilgarda Team have proved to have a very competitive package and are one of the top teams in World Superbike. I realise Superbike is not easy and I know I have to work hard. I'm looking forward to feeling the adrenalin again and fighting for the championship.”
Melandri's arrival also confirms the participation of Yamaha, which was believed to be in doubt earlier in the season. Although his team-mate is yet to be confirmed, rumours circulating at the Nurburgring this weekend suggested that former Ducati and current BMW team boss Davide Tardozzi could be joining his countryman in helming the team in 2011.
For the moment though, Yamaha's Laurens Klein Koerkamp was simply pleased to have landed a coup in signing Melandri.
“Marco is a great signing for the World Superbike Team. He has massive experience at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing and is extremely motivated to have the opportunity to challenge for race wins again. Whilst it is sad to see Cal leave us to move on up in the Yamaha family we are excited to have a serious title contender such as Marco joining us.”
During a grand prix career that spanned 14 seasons, Melandri has won 22 races – including five at MotoGP level – and managed 62 podiums.