Marco Melandri aboard Aprilia Gresini prototype at Valencia MotoGP Test, 2014
Marco Melandri during Valencia MotoGP testing

Aprilia Gresini Signs Marco Melandri

Shortly following the announcement that Aprilia will make its official return to MotoGP in 2015 under Gresini Racing, the first rider was signed – Alvaro Bautista.

The folks at Aprilia were hush about the second rider who would join the Factory Aprilia Gresini team.  But this changed Monday following the season finale of 2014 MotoGP at Valencia.

Joining Bautista on the Aprilia MotoGP team is Marco Melandri.The 32-year-old Italian had his first shakedown Monday aboard the Aprilia prototype during the traditional post-season MotoGP test at Valencia.

Melandri is no stranger to Aprilia and MotoGP. He spent the last four years in World Superbike, competing for Aprilia Racing in 2014 World Superbike. Before that, he spent 13 years in Grand Prix racing, including three with Aprilia in the former 250cc class.

In 2014 World SBK, Melandri’s teammate Sylvain Guintoli earned the title for Aprilia – a third for the Noale-based manufacturer. Though he didn’t earn the title, Melandri was strong aboard the RSV4, earning 11 podiums – including six wins. This helped Aprilia also earn the WSBK Manufacturer’s Title in 2014 SBK.

“I was offered the chance to develop a completely new project and it is something that I have not yet done in my career since I have always had ‘inherited’ bikes. Precisely for this reason I am very intrigued by this challenge,” Melandri says.

“I am working with a company and a racing department which sought me out and with which I want to continue to work in order to develop and grow a great project. Aprilia Racing has always demonstrated their ability to make great bikes and make them fast. I’ll put in my efforts.

“Our goal is quite ambitious: to grow a bike and at the same time to develop a new prototype that will race in 2016. It will be a demanding season and a lot of work but we are ready to take on these challenges.”

Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Director, commented “With Marco Melandri the last piece of the puzzle has been put into place for Aprilia’s participation in next year’s MotoGP season. These have been very intense and exciting days where in just a few hours we went from the last round of Superbike at Losail to this new adventure in MotoGP.

“We are very pleased to announce Marco’s signing because this completes our team in the best way possible on the eve of a great challenge: with Melandri we now have an all-Italian bike-rider duo. We are moving into MotoGP a year ahead of schedule on wings of enthusiasm because of the double world Superbike championships we have just won.

“We moved our schedule up because we want the most demanding tracks and the most competitive championship in the world to gauge the quality of our work. Aprilia’s 54 world titles, the hundreds of wins on tracks all over the world give proof of technical skills and a winning attitude that deserve the limelight of the most prestigious stage.”

Marco Melandri Motorcycle Racing History (courtesy of Aprilia)

Born in 1982, Marco Melandri began his career at a very young age in minimoto, winning the Italian Championship in 1992 and 1994. Moving to 125 he became Italian Champion for the category in 1997, a title which allowed him to début in the “eighth liter” MotoGP class. Third in 1998 and second in 1999, Marco moved up a category to ride a powerful 250 two-stroke with Aprilia.

This was the beginning of a Melandri-Aprilia match up where he finished fifth in the rider standings in 2000, third in 2001 and World Champion (with 9 wins and 2 podiums out of 16 races) in 2002.

Rising to the premier MotoGP category, Melandri immediately confirmed his competitiveness, finishing out the year in second place. In the various MotoGP categories Melandri has won 22 races and been on the podium 62 times.

In 2011 Marco Melandri moved over to World Superbike and was immediately a key player, so much that he was battling for the title from his rookie season, finishing the year in second place. Finishing third in the 2012 season, the rider from Ravenna was also a contender for the title in 2013, finishing out the season in fourth place. In SBK he has taken 19 wins and 31 podiums.

In its brief history, Aprilia boasts 54 World Titles (38 in MotoGP, 7 in Superbike and 9 in off-road disciplines) which make it one of the most victorious brands on a global level in motorcycle racing. Many recent protagonists in the motorcycle racing world have raced and won with Aprilia such as Biaggi, Capirossi, Rossi, Melandri, Simoncelli, Stoner and Lorenzo.