The Aruba.it Ducati WorldSBK team have confirmed that Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri will be their riders for the 2017 season. Davies has signed with Ducati for two more seasons, while the (nearly) 34-year-old Melandri has only a one year deal.
The announcement had been widely expected, as we wrote in our latest round up of WorldSBK Silly Season. Melandri had been working on a return to the World Superbike paddock ever since his ignominious exit from Aprilia's MotoGP team in the middle of 2015. His return has come at a price: informed paddock sources say that Melandri is to ride for free, and is bringing money to the team through sponsorship deals. Melandri is a proven commodity on a competitive bike, the only question mark being the effort he is willing to put in if he believes the bike is not capable.
The phrasing of Chaz Davies' contract extension is interesting. The official quotes from Davies in the press release speak of his joy at having signed on for two more years at Ducati. However, the press release only talks about the 2017 WorldSBK season. Davies has made no secret of his desire to make the switch to MotoGP, but he has also been very clear that he will only do so on a competitive bike and with factory support. Today's announcement clears the way for Davies to go to Pramac Ducati in 2018, though it does not mean he will necessarily end up there. Davies has a contract with Ducati, but if Pramac switch to Suzuki (which they have threatened), or if the team decides to keep Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci, then there would not be a seat there. Davies would then have to consider his options, and whether staying in World Superbikes is preferable to a bigger gamble in MotoGP.
The announcement also means that Davide Giugliano is now officially out of the factory Ducati team. The Italian has shown a lot of promise during his three-year tenure in the factory team, but he has failed to fulfil his potential by winning races. Giugliano is reported to be looking at both the WorldSBK and the Moto2 paddocks for 2017.
Below is the press release from Ducati:
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team on track in 2017 with Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team finalized its line-up for the 2017 WorldSBK Championship, confirming Chaz Davies and signing an agreement with Marco Melandri. Chaz and Marco have already been teammates in the past with great results, their common goal is to fight for the victory at each round and aim at the Riders’ and Manufacturers’ world titles.
Chaz Davies, 29, is currently in the middle of his third season with Ducati and, thus far, has secured 9 wins and 32 podiums overall on the Panigale R, showing constant progress and winning the hearts of many Ducati fans.
“I’m extremely happy to renew my professional relationship with Ducati for two more seasons,” Davies said. “The continuity element is really important in our job, and so far we’ve made great strides and got progressively closer to our 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.”
Thirty-four-year-old Melandri, on the other hand, will return to the production-based series, where he has claimed 19 wins and 49 overall podiums in 100 races.
“I’m really excited to come back to racing, it’s a dream come true,” Melandri stated. “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. I know it won’t be easy to get back up to speed, but I have all the time to step on the bike, do laps and make sure I’m ready for the first test: to this end, I will skip the holidays to train on a street version of the Panigale R.”
The 2016 championship will mark Davide Giugliano’s last season within the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team. In three years with the squad, the Italian rider has shown great speed and resilience, taking 10 podiums so far despite being sidelined for most of 2015 with two serious injuries. Ducati and Aruba.it would like to thank Davide for his efforts, wishing him all the best for his future career and reiterating their commitment to give him the best possible tools to achieve his first WorldSBK win.
“I had a great time with Ducati,” said Giugliano. “I learned a lot and was given a wealth of experience to draw upon, which is really important for a young rider. We also faced some difficult times, especially last year when I was badly injured, but we’ve always stayed close. We decided to take different paths, but our relationship remains strong: I’m still young, so we may rejoin forces in the future. I sincerely wish Melandri the best and would like to thank everyone in Ducati, especially Paolo Ciabatti, and Aruba.it for all their support. It’s been a great journey, which has yielded great results despite the fact that we would have liked to do more, but I’ll give my best until the end of the season to achieve bigger goals.”
Luigi Dall'Igna, Ducati Corse General Manager: “Chaz Davies has become a key member of the Ducati family, so we’re happy to announce that he will ride with us for two more years. Chaz has shown great progress and we’re confident he can take our bike to even higher grounds. In 2017, he will ride alongside Marco Melandri, who took upon the challenge with great enthusiasm. Marco is a talented rider, he has already achieved prestigious results in WorldSBK and we’re confident that the year spent without racing has not undermined his qualities. We’re obviously sad for Davide Giugliano, who will part ways with us at the end of the year, and we wish him nothing but the best. Davide proved to have great competitiveness, taking many podiums and fastest laps, and has given a crucial input towards the development of the WorldSBK-spec Panigale R. We would like to thank him and guarantee we will give him all our support until the last race to help him achieve the results he deserves.”
Stefano Cecconi, Aruba S.p.A. CEO and Team Principal: “Given that the riders’ choice is among the most important and difficult to make, as the available seats are always less than what we would ideally offer, we had to resort to our ambition and courage while taking all the necessary time to finalize the 2017 line-up. Chaz has shown he can fight for the victory each round. Davide is a young and fast rider, who can become even more competitive, so I hope it’s a ‘see you again’ and not a ‘farewell’ between us. Marco’s resume speaks for itself and puts more pressure, at any rate positive, on us: we want to help him achieve the result that, surely not due to a lack in talent, has eluded him in WorldSBK so far.”