Marco Melandri

Born Aug 7, 1982
Nationality Italy Italy

Marco Melandri is a former 250cc World Champion who resides 2 miles away from the famous Donington Park track. Marco has always been a keen follower and participator in motorbike racing and his passion for racing has shone through since his early days.

Marco was introduced to racing at the age of six, by former rider Loris Reggiani. He came through the ranks in the MiniBikes categories and moved into motocross and then to the prestigious Italian and European Championships in the 125cc category. His progress through the levels was rather fluent and in 1997, Marco won the Italian 125cc championships. He finished fourth in the European championships in the same category and also debuted in the 125cc World Championships as a wild card holder.He was impressive in his performances in the Italian and European series and in 1998, he got his chance for a full season at the International 125cc World Championships as a full time rider for the Benetton Honda Team. He worked wonders on his Honda machine and reached the podium in just his fourth race of the season. He finished second at Mugello and went on to win the Assen event. He became the youngest winner Grand Prix winner at 15 years and 324 days. He finished the season in 3rd place and won two races on the way.

He stayed with the team in 1999 and was intent on putting in a stronger bid for the title. He won five races but in the end, ended up in second place by one point. What seemed like a failure to Melandri was certainly viewed as otherwise, by the Aprilia outfit as they called him up for the 250cc class in 2000.

Aprilia signed Marco for the 2000 season to replace a prolific Italian, Valentino Rossi. Rossi had graduated to the 500cc class and Marco was expected to cover the gap left by Rossi in the team and win the 250cc World Championships. Marco Melandri failed to cope with the bigger bike and tougher competition level. He still finished on the podium on 4 occasions however, these were not enough to take him above 5th place in the championships. The only plus out of the season was that the podiums came towards the end of the season and that meant that the young Italian was getting accustomed to the bike and the competition.

In 2001, things did improve but not by much. Marco got the maiden win he was looking for but still, despite 9 podium finishes, never really challenged for the title. He managed a third place finish behind Daijiro Kato and Tetsuya Harada. Both Kato and Harada moved to the MotoGP level in 2002 and that left Marco as the strongest contender for the title and he didn’t disappoint. With the absence of strong contenders, he dominated the entire season with 9 wins and a total of 12 podium finishes. At 20 years and 40 days, he was the youngest 250cc World Champion (until Daniel Pedrosa in 2004).

The Yamaha factory team sought the services of Melandri and the chance of rising to the MotoGP class was a chance that he wouldn’t let go off. So in 2003, he was on the starting grid of his debut season in MotoGP. However, things didn’t turn out as he would have planned. In his very first race, he broke his leg after getting involved in a heavy crash and after returning, he failed to make waves in the remaining part of the season. He managed only the lower point finishes and ended the season in a disappointing 15th place.

Yamaha relegated Marco to their satellite team, Tech 3. They knew that the Italian did have some promise to deliver and it was just a matter of time before he came up. But even in his second year, Melandri was unable to do much in terms of top finishes, however, he did manage a couple of consecutive podium finishes. But besides that, he mostly had crashes and retirements to look back upon a season where he was again disappointing with a 12th place finish.

Melandri was released by Yamaha after 2004 and when it looked to be all over at the big stage, he became the surprise pick by the Movistar Honda team for another season in MotoGP. Surprisingly, this seemed to be the shot in Marco’s arm that was missing. Under boss Fausto Gresini, Melandri had a number of podium finishes in the beginning of the season as well as two wins in the final two races of the season. He became the first Honda rider to win back-to-back races for almost two years. His prolific season saw him at second place in the final riders’ standings, something that was extremely unexpected considering that Marco was now part of a satellite team. He almost challenged Rossi for the title but Rossi was too good for him and Marco finished comfortably at second with 2 wins and a total of 7 podium finishes.

Melandri had another season in line with Gresini and this time, alongside Toni Elias, he was expected to show some more potential and attack the championship race harder. Rossi was finding it hard to be consistent and this was more incentive for Marco. But with Loris Capirossi, Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa in line, life was not easy for Melandri. Despite a magnificent race at Istanbul where he won the race after starting from 14th; with 2 more wins at France and in Australia; and with a strong and consistent ride through the season, Melandri only managed a fourth place finish, a point behind Capirossi.

The duo of Melandri and Elias stayed at the Honda Gresini team for 2007 but the new machine was not competitive enough to give them a fair chance. He managed to finish the season in fifth place overall despite the torrid time given to him by his ride.

After his 3rd place finish at the 2007 US MotoGP round, Ducati announced that Melandri would partner Casey Stoner in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. His main task at Ducati, one assumes, would be to aid Stoner in retaining his World Title, although with a competent machine between his legs, Marco might just have different plans.

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