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GP Week : Issue 49
5 Minutes with ... MARCO MELANDRI Marco Melandri is back from the dead.He has recovered from ‘Desmo Syndrome’ and has already scored a 2009 podium. He spoke with MICHAEL SCOTT FORMER 250 champion Marco Melandri started 2008 as The Great Italian Hope at all-red Ducati. Halfway through, he was a puzzle and a laughing stock, mosying around hopelessly at the back while team- mate Stoner won race after race. The worst-yet victim of Desmo Syndrome, he quit after one year, was picked up by Kawasaki, then found himself jobless as they green team pulled out of MotoGP. Then they came back, with Hayate. And before you knew it ‘Macio’ finished sixth, fifth in Japan and at Jerez, and then a mighty second at the French GP. GPWEEK: After a devastating Ducati year, then how did you feel when Kawasaki pulled out of MotoGP? MARCO MELANDRI: After last year, I saw the bottom has no limit any more. So I couldn’t think … now I touched the bottom and I come back. And every day with the Kawasaki situation was a new story also. I would hear like three times a day changing ideas. “We race.” “We don’t race.” “We can race, if …” So was difficult. How did you hear about Kawasaki’s pull-out? I was in the mountains with friends and I got a text from my manager. I thought he was kidding. It was the 29th of December, so I thought maybe he wanted to make me finish the year in a very bad way, then start again the new year. Then around the 20 of February, a week before the first test in Qatar, the situation was very, very critical. That time I thought I was finished. Did you have any chances in Superbike? I didn’t care to go Superbike with not very good bikes, because I was sure if I went there without good results, I was finished. For me it was better to wait one year and try to come back. Maybe MotoGP would be difficult, but maybe I could find a good Superbike for 2010. I feel lucky, because I don’t have to think about that now. 22 Last year you told GPWeek that after your first lap on the Ducati, you knew you were in serious trouble. How about the first lap on the 2009 Kawasaki? With Ducati that’s true. With Kawasaki, I knew from testing the ‘08 bike that in some ways it was good for me, and in some other ways it looked like the setup was lost. I felt something was wrong on the rear, because the traction was … I never find a bike in my life so bad in traction under power. The new ‘09 bike, the feeling was better than ‘08 from the beginning. So I felt a good feeling from the team, and from the character of the bike. I knew we could improve a lot from last position, but maybe not as much like we did now. But now we are here, so we want to keep improving. What is it that suits you about Kawasaki and not about the Ducati? It’s Japanese. (laughs) In MotoGP the chassis feeling comes mainly from the engine character. For me, Ducati was so bad. And when you don’t like the bike, you need to trust the people you are working with. This is what I really missed at Ducati. Really, really missed. The confidence was zero. Nicky Hayden seems to be having similar trouble. Yeah. Everybody thinks I am not strong in my head, and that he is so strong in that way. But maybe he has done worse than me. And he looks so much more sad than I was. When I complained about problems with communication, Ducati sent me to see the psychologist. With Nicky, they changed the crew chief. The pressure I had … I knew exactly what was happening last year. I knew everything why I was bad. But I could make nothing, because I didn’t feel that people want to work to help me. I laugh, because when I try to see the eyes of Ducati people in the paddock, they don’t look at me. Nobody look at my eyes. So what exactly is the Ducati mystery, that Stoner is so fast and other good riders so slow? I don’t know. Sure Casey’s riding style might be bad for a Japanese bike but it’s perfect for that bike. If you want to make that bike work for other riders, for sure Casey will be not as fast. And Ducati knows that. You’ve moved from a great big rich team to this small Hayate team. How does it feel? I feel better here. At this time, it looks like a family team, because people do all sorts of jobs. It’s nice. Like coming back ten or 15 years. I like it more. Last year was very, very busy. Looks like Stoner never wanted to do nothing for promotion in Italy, so I was going many place for him also. Looks like it was more important for me to do the promo than to do the race. Over the years you’ve gone from hero to zero and back to hero again. How differently do people react to one or the other? Many people thought I was wrong last year. Now everybody sees me, and says: ‘Maybe he was right’. I don’t like this. I mean, I like it that the people like me, but I don’t like that the people want to judge, without knowing the situation. But I don’t care. What I learned last year is I have to do what I feel inside. I don’t want what other people think to make me happy. I know what kind of person I am. How did switching teams affect you financially? For me it’s been a strange story. For sure I lost so much money, because my contract with Ducati was already signed for 2009, and it was a lot. I said to them, I don’t want money. It’s okay, we can stop like this. Nobody said to me, thanks. And I signed for so much less money here. I get a little bit of money – I cannot say zero, but not as much as I should have. I am happy, and I don’t think money can make me happy like I am now. So if I have to change the money for the job, I want the job. My main target was stay racing, find a good way to race. I already have so much more money than when I first started racing, so I don’t care.