GRT Yamaha’s Marco Melandri found the pace and lack of practice time difficult at Magny-Cours, but recovered to take a top six in the final race of the weekend – his best single race result since Misano.
Retiring at the end of the year, this was actually Melandri’s final European race – of his full-time career – but it was not an easy weekend for him and he took the opportunity to have another swipe at this year’s R1 and the 2020 bike too.
“It was difficult, because I cannot ride. I struggled a lot and starting from 15th place did not help me. With new tyres in qualifying – OK yesterday was wet and I crashed – but with a new tyre it is always very difficult for me,” said Melndri.
The bike is always very nervous and completely different from my characteristics. When the tyre drops down I feel a bit better. Not well, but a bit better. And it was very windy on Sunday, Luckily it was opposite way of the straight so I could use the slipstream.”
Melandri has often had issues on any new bike he rides, then works it out and starts to win races and take podiums. But although he has secured top three finishes in Phillip Island and Jerez, he is down in ninth place in the championship.
Melandri did not agree with a question that asked if he could not develop he bike to his needs because Yamaha did not want to, saying, “I do not think so. I think the bike is so stiff for me. Very stiff. We do everything possible on the bike. Yamaha and the team have been working a lot.
“But for me, I am small, the bike feels so stiff and it is impossible for me to stop the bike, to make the bike turn. The bike is all on one piece and it never moves; you never feel the tyre on he track, for me. It is completely different from the 2011 bike.”
In Melandri’s final race in Europe, he felt the emotion of it all, especially with his daughter sitting next to him at the Sunday media scrum. “For sure Saturday afternoon was a big emotion, because only in that time you realise what it is, how many years I have been involved in racing.”
As a final year, it has been a tough one for Melandri to take, after a world championship winning career and then being a perennial star in WorldSBK. “I have been suffering, every race actually. Only in PI – I was not fast in qualifying - but only during the race because you only have to save the tyre. And the tyres we have for the race are much harder, so less grip. For me, less grip means an easier bike. Thailand was not so bad because you brake straight. Every time you brake with lean angle for me it is so difficult. The bike never wants to follow my request. It has been like that.”
Melandri aggress that this has been the first year that he has not really got things worked out at some stage, and also said, “Yeah and maybe because we are not a factory team also. I think the main problem was the character. I think the bike is fast, from the beginning, but the character of the bike requests a completely different size of rider and different riding style. I love to ride on the front, this bike you have to ride on the rear. For me it was impossible to do like this.”
It was suggested to Melandri that the new 2010 Yamaha, unveiled in Laguna Seca in July, might not be very different to the 2019 model. “I think it is the same, yeah, the character is the same. For sure it is better but the character is the same. I could not imagine to go ahead like that. When I go back home I am never happy, just headache and I never have fun riding the bike. The battle was not so bad in the end but I did not have fun to ride because I was not riding like I want.”