Yamaha rider standings after 7 rounds, 14 races
Marco Melandri, Yamaha SBK
Eugene Laverty, Yamaha SBK
Having been unable to back up its 2009 title victory with a similar performance in 2010, Yamaha came into the 2011 fielding another all-new rider line-up – it's third in successive seasons – with Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty at the helm this time.
An interesting partnership bringing together one of MotoGP's more colourful stars and the twice World Supersport runner-up, their repertoires may look very different on paper, but Melandri and Laverty have been closely matched on the YZF-R1.
With half of the season completed, Yamaha lay claim to four race wins – two each for Melandri and Laverty – and command third and fourth in the overall standings. Regardless of their motorcycling experience, particularly in Melandri's case, it is still impressive when considering both are rookies in this discipline.
Melandri has been particularly impressive, not least because of his lack of knowledge around certain circuits and of the Superbike, but also because he didn't appear terribly impressive pre-season as he struggled with a shoulder injury.
Nonetheless, since the lights first went out at Phillip Island back in February, Melandri has been a consistent front runner. Victory in only his third race at Donington Park gave him title contender status, though it took until Aragon for him to get back on top of the podium.
Blips at Assen and Misano aside, Melandri looks capable of being the rider to beat on his day – just seven rounds into his WSBK career, there are no doubt many more of these days to come.
Highlighted by his remarkable double victory at Monza, Laverty has flourished since joining the Superbike ranks. Pre-season, Laverty said he would be pleased if he was around the top five, a target that was considered ambitious by some.
Seven rounds in and Laverty bridges the gap between the big three and the chasing pack and is arguably – together with Leon Camier – the most consistent podium threat behind Checa, Biaggi and Melandri.
Indeed, it's hard to fault Laverty in his maiden season, with good qualifying performances, strong race outings and a number of excellent overtaking moves defining him so far. At worst, he lacks some front-running consistency – of seven top five finishes, just two (his victories) are podiums -, but given he is a Superbike rookie, and not just because he came from MotoGP, it's a minor notification.