Aprilia Drops Marco Melandri From MotoGP Team, Replaced By Michael Laverty
Days before the start of the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, the Aprilia Racing has unwittingly found itself in the headlines after parting ways with rider Marco Melandri. The team didn’t dive into the specifics of why Melandri was given the boot, offering only a curt statement saying that both sides had agreed to “terminate [Melandri’s] contractual obligations” with the team.
Both Aprilia and Melandri were diplomatic about the latter’s exit from the team, but it’s not difficult to see why Aprilia came to this decision after only eight races in the current MotoGP season. Basically, it all boiled down to performance, or in the case of Melandri, an alarming lack of it.
To be fair, nobody really had high expectations for Aprilia this season, largely because the team has long considered it a development year. The sole objective wasn’t to win any races, but post decent performances that can help with the team’s preparations for its 2016 racer. Yet despite all of that, the experienced Melandri still couldn’t provide the kind of results Aprilia was looking for.
In the end, Aprilia decided to cut the cord on its partnership with the Italian rider, opting instead to replace him with Irish rider Michael Laverty, pictured above. The 2007 British Supersport champion will line up on the grid for Aprilia this weekend in Germany, determined to give Aprilia the kind of results it didn’t get from the departed Melandri.
Continue reading to read more about Aprilia racing team’s decision to switch riders in MotoGP.
Why it matters
Aprilia’s decision to cut ties with Marco Melandri didn’t come as a shock to me. In fact, I’m actually surprised it took this long for the team to replace him. I have nothing against the Italian rider, but the results speak for themselves. Of the eight races this season, Melandri finished dead last in three races, finished no higher than 19th in three other races, and failed to classify in the other two.
That’s not going to cut it, even for a team like Aprilia who knows it’s racing for nothing but research and development. To make things worse, Melandri’s teammate Alvaro Bautista actually has 11 points to his name, good enough for 17th place in the overall rider’s standings.
I don’t want to say that Melandri was out of his element in MotoGP because he’s actually an accomplished rider, having won the 250cc World Championship back in 2002. But I also can’t blame Aprilia for dropping him with all these poor finishes to his name.
For the sake of the team, I hope that Michael Laverty does a better job with the remaining races in the season than his predecessor. Fortunately, he’s had experience racing for Aprilia in MotoGP, having done so in 2014 with Paul Bird Motorsport. I want him to do well, or at least better than what Melandri gave the team in the first half of the season.
At the very least, Laverty’s coming in with the bar set about as low as it can. It’s now on him to string together positive results that can actually help Aprilia in the long run.