BMW has announced that it has signed Marco Melandri for the 2012 World Superbike Championship season to become the first team to confirm its full rider line-up.
The Italian has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks following the announcement that Yamaha was to withdraw its manufacturer-backed team at the end of the 2011 season, Melandri linked with the likes of Honda, Kawasaki and a privateer Yamaha deal.
However, the former MotoGP rider has opted to join Leon Haslam at BMW for 2012, underlining the manufacturer's determination to become winners at World Superbike level.
Indeed, BMW Motorsport Director Bernhard Gobmeier feels that arrival of Melandri alongside Haslam creates the strongest line-up in World Superbikes.
“We are really looking forward to working with Leon and Marco,” he said. “I am convinced we will have arguably the strongest rider's line up in the Superbike World Championship field. We are delighted to have two riders who are both hungry and experienced for the coming season. That is the next important step for our team.”
“Marco has performed brilliantly this season, even during difficult periods. He impressed us in his first season in the championship, and we are pleased to be able to welcome him into our team.”
Melandri made his World Superbike debut with Yamaha this season, quickly establishing himself as a front runner by winning only his third race at Donington Park. Further wins have followed at Brno and Motorland Aragon, with the Italian now set to end his maiden year in second position overall.
Melandri and Haslam will spearhead BMW's fourth season in World Superbikes, where they will be keen to make amends for a 2011 season where the German marque has been quick, but not a race win contender. So far, the manufacturer has amassed only four podiums in three seasons, though it is set to beat Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki in the 2011 manufacturer standings this year.