The Aruba.it Ducati team have announced that Marco Melandri will partner Chaz Davies for the 2017 World Superbike Championship, with the Welshman renewing his contract with the team for two more years.
Melandri was a stalwart in the World Superbike Championship from 2011 to 2014, taking 19 wins and 30 other podium finishes from 100 starts. The former 250cc World Champion returned to the MotoGP World Championship in 2015 aboard Aprilia’s RS-GP, but left mid-season following an extremely difficult time on the troublesome Noale machine.
The 22-time grand prix winner has spent this season watching from the sidelines after failing to secure a ride, but has been linked with a number of teams including the Crescent Yamaha squad.
“I’m really excited to come back to racing, it’s a dream come true,” said the 34-year-old. “I always said I was only interested in a top bike and top team, and I could not have asked for more. I kept following WorldSBK closely, and I’m confident the Panigale R can perfectly suit my riding style. We’ll just have to take one step at a time, but the potential is surely high.”
Davies will enter his fourth year with the Bologna factory in 2017. Since joining Ducati, the Welshman has claimed nine wins and currently lies third in the standings, though 108 points adrift of series leader Jonathan Rea.
“I’m extremely happy to renew my professional relationship with Ducati for two more seasons,” stated Davies. “The continuity element is really important in our job, and so far we’ve made great strides and got progressively closer to out goal. Now we can fight for the win practically on every track, and I’m confident we can make further improvements. Moreover, to race for Ducati is something special: everything is done with heart and passion, you really feel part of a family and have a direct connection between the production and racing. It’s going to be exciting.”
This news leaves current Aruba.it rider Davide Giugliano without a ride in WorldSBK, though rumour suggests that the Italian could be making a switch to grand prix with a ride in the Moto2 World Championship next season.