Yamaha Motor Europe is pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese that will see the two riders campaign race proven, factory supported Yamaha YZF-R1 machines for the GRT Yamaha Team, who will step up to contest the FIM World Superbike Championship in 2019.
The move to the premier class for GRT Yamaha comes after two incredibly successful seasons in the FIM World Supersport Championship. In 2017 the team secured the world title with Lucas Mahias, who returned with the team in 2018 to finish as runner up to Cortese in the championship. GRT Yamaha also finished both seasons as the top team in the series, making a significant contribution to Yamaha’s domination of the class.
While GRT Yamaha will be new to the FIM World Superbike Championship in 2019, in Melandri and Cortese they have two riders with vast experience gained in both prototype and production racing. This experience will be critical as the team adapt to the demands of racing in the premier production class.
A former 250cc World Champion and MotoGP race winner, Melandri has claimed an impressive 72 podium finishes, including 22 race wins, since making his debut in the FIM World Superbike Championship aboard a Yamaha YZF-R1 back in 2011. The 36-year-old from Ravenna in Italy was second in the championship that year, his best result to date, but has finished inside the top five in every season he’s contested since.
Although 2019 will be Cortese’s first season in the FIM World Superbike Championship he also brings a wealth of experience with him to the GRT Yamaha team. The 28-year-old German took five race wins and 10 podium finishes on his way to being crowned as the first ever Moto3 World Champion in 2012. Cortese is also the reigning World Supersport Champion, having secured the title in his debut season in the class aboard a Yamaha YZF-R6 with a podium finish in the final round in Qatar.
Melandri and Cortese will get their first opportunity to test the Yamaha YZF-R1 they’ll campaign in GRT Yamaha colours in 2019 during a two-day test at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain, which gets underway on 26th November.
GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team
“To win the WorldSSP championship and then step up to WorldSBK with the GRT Yamaha Team is like a dream come true for me. I’m super happy to be a part of this new project and, although it’s a big step, I am really looking forward to the challenge. I can’t wait to jump on the Yamaha YZF-R1 for the first time in Jerez later this month to start the familiarisation process. It will be like Christmas for me; I’ve never ridden such a big bike before and I am like a small kid who can’t wait to get his present! The bike will be more physically demanding to ride than the Yamaha YZF-R6 and, with three races every weekend instead of just one next year, I will definitely need to work on my fitness over the winter to ensure I’m ready.”
GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team Manager
“I am really delighted to be stepping up to the WorldSBK championship with Yamaha, it’s like a dream come true. We started this project in WorldSSP and now we are moving up to WorldSBK, which is very important for the team but also for Yamaha’s production racing program. It’s a big step for us and we know we will be facing a steep learning curve in our debut season, but our two riders bring with them a wealth of experience. Riders don’t come more experienced than Marco, who has been a frontrunner in WorldSBK since he came to the championship in 2011. And while 2019 will be Sandro’s first season on a WorldSBK machine, he’s the reigning WorldSSP champion and a former Moto3 World Champion, so I expect him to adapt quickly to our Yamaha YZF-R1. We need to learn a lot in this new category, but our target is clear; we want to be as competitive in WorldSBK as we have been in WorldSSP. Maybe this isn’t possible in our debut season, but that’s the goal for the future.”