Melandri: I can't wait.
Wednesday, 22nd March 2006
One year ago, at the season opening Spanish Grand Prix, a 'reborn' Marco Melandri turned heads by clinching a podium finish in his very first race on a Honda RC211V (top picture).
That result signalled the start of a dream season for the young Italian who - after two forgettable seasons at Yamaha - went on to finish the 2006 championship as runner-up to Valentino Rossi, and took his first MotoGP victories in the last two races.
Melandri returns to Jerez this weekend looking to start 2006 as he left off last year but, while Marco is now a proven quantity - and a title contender, doubts remain about his Spanish GP potential after the Italian, like all the RCV riders, suffered some handling problems during testing.
Nevertheless, Melandri has put any
"I can't wait to get out onto the track at Jerez, a circuit I like a lot because it is technical and complete," said the 23-year-old. "There is so much expectation for the start of the championship and it's guaranteed to be a real spectacle. Jerez will be a very combative race with so many riders in the right shape to challenge to win.
"I am also ready. I can already feel the adrenaline and I am sure that will push me to take that extra step forward and be competitive. I am quite satisfied; after a tough winter we have managed to create a good base. We still have to improve a little bit and then I can be fast, like I showed I can be last season," he declared.
"With two straight victories and five podiums in all Marco was a real star in an incredible 2005 season and he's now ready to challenge at the very highest level," added team manager Fausto Gresini. "After a tough winter I am sure that Marco can fight for the front positions from the first race."
Meanwhile, for Melandri's new Fortuna Honda team-mate Toni Elias, the 2005 rookie of the year on a Tech 3 Yamaha, Jerez marks the long awaited start of a new adventure:
"Finally the testing is over and the championship is starting," said the Spaniard. "Over the winter we worked a lot, keeping a philosophy of taking small steps forward. I tried to remain calm and focused to try and understand the bike and adapt it to my style without just going for a lap time at all cost.
"I've covered a lot of kilometres, I now feel more comfortable on the bike and my race rhythm has improved. I'm looking forward to the start - I can already feel the tension of a race. I'm happy to be starting out in Spain, in front of my fans. Jerez is a nice Grand Prix, not just for the track but also for the fans - the feeling when you enter the 'stadium' section is unbelievable," Toni concluded.
"In the pre-season tests Toni has proved that he is a talented and determined rider and a quick learner," stated Gresini. "During the last test at Jerez he showed that he has character and good potential. I'm sure that we can now start to reap the fruit of his hard work during the winter."