Marco Melandri has given his flagging World Superbike Championship title hopes a significant boost with his fighting double victory in Sepang, his first wins as an Aprilia rider.
The Italian came into the Malaysian weekend reportedly under pressure to succeed by Aprilia management disgruntled with his form so far this year, speculation not aided by him being out-performed by team-mate and pole sitter Sylvain Guintoli around the Sepang circuit for much of the weekend.
However, come race day Melandri would prove the quicker Aprilia rider, shrugging busy early laps to break clear and pass his team-mate on each occasion, including in a thrilling final lap showdown in race two.
Describing the wins as exactly what he needed, Melandri has made significant in-roads into the WSBK championship fight, rising to fifth overall, 58 points off the overall lead.
“A double win that was just what we needed! Despite the difficulties we never gave up. We kept working and fighting. I had a good feeling straight away with my RSV4 here. The conditions in race one were difficult but I managed to catch up to Sylvain. After overtaking him I set my own pace. I knew I could defend well in the braking sections and I was able to manage the race to the end.
“Race two was even harder because I also had to battle with the Kawasakis before catching Sylvain. In the last tap I thought I would give it a try. I had to give 100 percent down to the chequered flag. Anyway, all the riders deserve admiration today because riding in these conditions is not easy at all. I want to dedicate this win to Manu, her belly and all the guys on the Team. See you at Misano!"