Marco Melandri feels he can challenge for victory in the opening round of the 2013 World Superbike Championship after qualifying a solid fifth at Phillip Island.
The Italian was expected to mount a pole position challenge after topping the Superpole-preceding FP2 session, but after equalling Tom Sykes's lap time in the final Superpole session, he would have to settle for fifth place.
Even so, the second row remains a vast improvement on his qualifying performance from 2012 when he started down in 13th position, yet still scored a podium. With that in mind, Melandri is feeling good about his race chances this year.
“Compared to last year, when we struggled a lot on this track, we have improved a lot,” he said. “Now the bike is performing quite well and we had a good qualifying session. This afternoon the track conditions were worse than yesterday and this morning, but the team has done a great job on the bike to improve the tyres' life.
“In the end we are satisfied and we got the best out of our bike. Tomorrow's races will not be easy for all of us because of the high temperatures and the wind. While I hope that the wind will not be too strong, I don't mind if it is warm.
“My shoulder is also getting a little better, probably because it is getting used to the stress from being on the bike. I am confident that tomorrow we will be consistent on the long distance of the race.”
Chaz Davies will start his first race as a BMW rider from 12th position on the grid after struggling to find the pace that had him up to the top five in free practice and suffering with technical issues during Superpole.
“I'm very disappointed. After yesterday I thought that we were consistently going in the right direction but today just seemed a little bit more difficult. We were very happy with the long run we did this morning in the second qualifying practice, but from free practice onwards it became difficult.
“Unfortunately in Superpole I was struggling with a technical issue a little bit. We are working on solving this and apart from that, I am happy with the bike. We showed that we are quite strong in our race setup and if I get a good start a lot is possible. It is just a shame that we had that issue at that critical point of the weekend.”