Double podium to start the year with a landmark win for Melandri
The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati squad got 2018 off to a good start at Phillip Island, with Marco Melandri taking an impressive first WorldSBK win at the track and teammate Chaz Davies completing the podium. After some ups and downs in testing, it’s good reading for the Borgo Panigale factory.
For Melandri, it’s also something more. The Italian has won at the Island in the 125, 250 and MotoGP™ classes of Grand Prix racing – and was just missing that final tick in the box for a WorldSBK win. Now, the Ducati rider has the full set.
“It’s amazing,” he beams. “I was missing winning on this track in Superbike! I won in the other classes, 125, 250 and MotoGP, and it’s special for me. And to win the first race is unbelievable, the team did an awesome job and I’m so happy!”
Melandri also had good pace in testing at the venue, and he says his form is the result of experience. Of which he has a lot, but not with the Ducati squad that he joined only last year.
“This year I have another year of experience with Ducati,” begins the Italian. “And also, I’m much more aware of my potential, and my weak points. I’m trying to work on them.” But as for Race 2, he’s still expecting tough competition despite the win: “The race was amazing, but for sure tomorrow the guys will be stronger. And it will depend on the weather. Because it was a difficult race today, Tom had amazing speed and it wasn’t easy!”
For teammate Chaz Davies, the winter hasn’t been easy. Recovering from injury and now feeling more like himself, the Welshman nevertheless started the season on the podium, getting past expected title rival Jonathan Rea right at the end of the race as the Northern Irishman suffered with tyre issues.
“I’m happy to be on the podium, although obviously I got a bit lucky with Jonny’s misfortune,” says Davies. “I felt like I was fighting a bit of a battle to get it hooked up on the left hand side, I was really slow on left hand corners and we need to understand why that was. But we made it work and here we are. It was a tough winter and that’s a great result, I think.”
Davies, who was initially fighting to be in the top five, adds that the race wasn’t the normal Phillip Island kind of battle – the likes of which he’s taken to the wire before – with Tom Sykes’ (Kawsaki Racing Team) pace ‘all out’.
“I felt like at the start, I was biding my time” explains the Ducati rider. “And I thought we needed to save tyre. But the pace was so fast – it wasn’t your normal Phillip Island race. Normally everyone plays cat and mouse and drops the hammer on the last five laps, but this was all out from Lap 1. Tom made it happen in the first few laps and it was up to everyone else to chase.”
Now it’s all reset for Race 2 and the reverse grid format will shuffle the order once again. How will that shake things up? Lights out is at 15:00 local time on Sunday (GMT +11).