The Aruba.it Racing Ducati team has confirmed the rider line-up for 2019 with the addition of current MotoGP Alvaro Bautista. Existing rider Chaz Davies will stay with the squad for the debut of the much-anticipated Ducati Panigale V4. To end the 2018 season on a high with the Ducati Panigale R, Davies, current Ducati team-mate Marco Melandri, and Junior team member Michael Ruben Rinaldi all completed a two-day test at the Autodromo do Algarve in Portimao before the next round at the circuit in Portugal on September 14th, 2018.
Melandri Out, Bautista In at Aruba Ducati:
Aruba.it Ducati has confirmed that Welshman Chaz Davies will be racing for the team again in 2019. It will be his sixth season with the factory squad, having already finished on the podium for them 68 times, including 25 victories. The 31-year-old has twice finished runner-up in the World Superbike championship during his time with Ducati. After racing in 125cc and 250cc GPs, MotoGP and the AMA championship, Davies won the 2011 World Supersport title.
He’ll be joined in 2019 by Spanish MotoGP rider Alvaro Bautista, the 2006 125cc World Champion. Bautista moved up to the 250cc class from 2007 until the end of 2009, finishing in the top four of the championship every year. He then moved up to MotoGP with the Rizla Suzuki squad, and then moved to the Gresini team on both Honda and Aprilia machines. 2017 saw him switch to Ducati for the Pull&Bear Aspar squad which is currently competing as the Angel Nieto team in 2018. Bautista has regularly recorded top ten finishes in MotoGP over the last two seasons, despite always running the Ducati Desmosedici from the previous year.
The change means Marco Melandri will leave the Aruba.it team after two years. The Italian is currently fifth in the overall standings, with two wins at the opening round in Australia. He’s finished on the podium four times since then.
Melandri was crowned 250cc world champion in 2002, and finished second to the dominant Valentino Rossi in the 2005 MotoGP season.
The Ducati trio of Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri and Michael Ruben Rinaldi completed a two-day World Superbike test at the Autodromo do Algrave to test chassis and set-up, plus some new tyre options from Pirelli.
Melandri led the timesheets on the opening day, and finished day two in fourth with a total of 158 laps and a best time of 1:42.254.
Recovering from a fractured collarbone, Davies posted the 5th best time of 1:42.564 in a total of 119 laps. Meanwhile Rinaldi moved up to 10th with 1:42.862.
Marco Melandri, “The test went well. Last year we struggled on this track due to the bumpy tarmac, but I have to say they did a good job, especially in fast corners. The conditions were still tricky though, especially in the afternoon when the temperatures rise and the wind blows stronger. We had some interesting things to try, and lots of new tires with different measurements, so we had a comprehensive program to follow. We progressively improved our performance, focusing on fine-tuning the setup for the race, while we still need to improve with a qualifying tire. Our pace was more consistent today, and we’re all pretty close at the top in this regard.”
Chaz Davies, “I’m pretty happy, we got an overall idea of a base setup for the race and we also tried some components which give us a better understanding of where we’re at. I didn’t want to push it too much and overstep the mark, and I also didn’t use a qualifying tyre, in contrast to the riders in front of us. We focused on different upgrades in terms of brakes, suspension, and electronics. Obviously the shoulder was also something important to test, I wanted to check the collarbone under braking, which doesn’t get much harder than at turn 1 here, and I didn’t feel any pain so I’m very happy.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi, “This test was very useful. Given that it’s been a while since the last time we rode, on the first day I had to reacquaint myself with the Panigale R. Today, on the other hand, we tried to go for a quick lap time in the morning with a cooler tarmac, then we focused on the race setup but we still improved the lap time towards with a race tire and 50 degrees on the tarmac. I’m very happy, we did a good job and we’re not far from Chaz and Marco, even though our pace can still be better.”