Davies will attempt third successive Imola double, while Melandri arrives with renewed spirits
There’s no place like home. Coming off their weakest weekend in the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, the Aruba.it Racing team finds itself back at its favourite track, the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola. Here Ducatis have won more than all the other manufacturers combined – coupled with the incredibly passionate fans who always flood the circuits, it will make for a thrilling showdown.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was the only Ducati rider to score a podium finish at the last round, mounting another impressive comeback in Race 1 to finish third. The Welshman lost ground with leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) at Assen, but still sits just 30 points behind – nothing compared to recent years at this stage (84 in 2017, 45 in 2016 and 67 in 2015).
Davies has won the last four races here, and feels he’s in a prime position to go two further: "Imola is a special place. We've been particularly competitive there in the past two years, even going above our expectations, and it's just been one of those circuits where we've been able to get into a good rhythm quite fast. The track itself has some hard-braking areas that suit my style, and I've always been very motivated since we've been surrounded by all the Ducati people and fans, who have so much passion. But nothing stands still in racing, so we need to keep our head down and be prepared for a battle, as always”.
His teammate Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) will be hoping the return home can breathe some new life into his championship aspirations, after a frustrating Round 4. Melandri was born less than an hour away from Imola, but is yet to win here.
With positive feelings returning to his riding, 2018 seems like the perfect opportunity for Melandri to open his Italian tally: "I think we're heading to Imola at the right time, I'm very excited but also focused and full of energy. I still haven't won at Imola in WorldSBK, but each year is a different story and I'm confident we can be protagonists. The last test has given me a lot of confidence, we made a big step forward and we understood our limitations better. I'm as determined as ever to fight for the win again. Anything is still possible, but we must not waste any opportunities. It'll be a memorable round!"
Junior rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) continues his WorldSBK initiation, with his third race of the championship. He struggled at Assen after an impressive Aragon debut, and will be looking to continue learning: "We head to Imola with more experience under our belts, I'm in great shape and eager to keep improving. The Brno test gave us another chance to better adapt to the bike, and personally I really enjoy riding at Imola. I'm confident we can do really well there and aim at a top-five finish, which is not an easy goal but still within our possibilities. Looking at past results, the Panigale R has done really well at Imola, so we just need to head out there and see where we're at."
See how the Ducati riders progress throughout Imola weekend thanks to the WorldSBK VideoPass.