Yamaha SBK: 5 Questions with Marco Melandri

US World Superbike

Miller Motorsports Park will again host the USA Round of the FIM Superbike World Championship on The BigM Weekend, May 28-30.

Leading up to the round at Miller, we will visit with race winners and other notable riders participating in the championship after each race during the 2011 season and bring you a new chapter in the “Five Questions with” series.

Today’s subject is Italy’s Marco Melandri, who rides the No. 33 factory Yamaha YZF R1. Melandri is a newcomer to World Superbike, having spent the past seven seasons in MotoGP. Prior to moving up to MotoGP, he won the 250cc World Championship for Aprilia in 2002.

After taking his first World Superbike podium with a third-place finish in the second race of the season opener in Philip Island, Australia, Melandri won the first race of the second round at England’s Donington Park and backed it up with a second-place finish in the second race. He currently stands second in the championship standings with 72 points, 19 points behind current leader Carlos Checa.

1. You have spent more than a decade riding purpose-built race bikes and prototypes. How difficult has the transition to production-based bikes been, and how have you had to adapt your riding style to suit your new Yamaha?

Marco Melandri: “Actually, Superbikes are getting more and more like MotoGP bikes. The biggest difference is the weight of the bike and the braking; I think everything else is relatively similar and I haven’t had any difficulty adjusting. The only big difference is having to adapt your riding style that is used to MotoGP tires to a style more suited to our Pirelli Superbike tires.”

2. In the first two rounds, you often appear to be stronger than the others entering corners. Can you please explain your apparent strength going into corners on your Yamaha?

Marco Melandri says: “I think that’s just down to getting the right balance and having a good feeling with the bike. I feel my R1 is working perfect with my style of riding, so I feel very comfortable on it and am confident entering into the corners.”

3. Has your background as a 250cc rider been an advantage or disadvantage in coming to grips with the production-based Yamaha?

Marco Melandri says: “I think it was an advantage. I believe riding a two-stroke bike is always the best way to learn how to use the throttle, and therefore my experience on a 250cc really helped me to master that.”

4. Now that you have contested two rounds in the Superbike World Championship after spending seven years in MotoGP, please talk about the level of competition in the two series.

Marco Melandri says: “WSBK is more competitive. I think many different bikes, manufacturers and riders are in with a good chance of winning a race. And that makes it so much more exciting. In MotoGP, however, only two or three riders are really in with a chance of winning, so every race is always the same. You go there and you try your hardest, but at the end of the day you are just a number.”

5. You have never raced at Miller Motorsports Park. What do you know about the track, what have others told you about it and how do you think your style will suit the track based on what you know about it?

Marco Melandri says: “On TV, I think the track looks great. From what I know about the track and what I’ve been told, I feel it is going to be a good track for my Yamaha R1 and my style of riding. It looks to be a smooth and fast, flowing track, and that should definitely suit me. I’m looking forward to going there and trying it out and I’m confident it will work well with my R1. We’ll soon see!”

The third round of the 2011 FIA Superbike World Championship will take place over the weekend of April 16-17 at The Netherlands’ TT Circuit Assen. Jonathan Rea swept both races at Assen in 2010 riding for the Ten Kate Honda team. This year’s races will be broadcast on a same-day/tape-delay basis on SPEED Channel at 5 and 6 p.m. (EST) on April 17.

The May 28-30 BigM Weekend at Miller Motorsports Park will include the USA Round (Round 5) of the FIM Superbike World Championship, plus support races from AMA Pro Road Racing including the National Guard Superbike Championship, the Daytona SportBike Championship, the Vance & Hines XR1200 Championship and the Larry H. Miller AMA SuperSport Challenge. There will also be concerts on Saturday and Sunday nights, May 28-29, and a major tribute to our armed forces in recognition of Memorial Day.

To obtain tickets for or information about The BigM Weekend, visit the event-specific website at BigMWeekend.com or call 435-277-RACE (7223). For information regarding Miller Motorsports Park, visit the track’s website at MillerMotorsportsPark.com.