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Marco Melandri: reflections of a 250cc World Champion

Marco Melandri: reflections of a 250cc World Champion

Marco Melandri: reflections of a 250cc World Champion

Marco Melandri arrived at the end of a three year road to 250cc World Championship glory at Phillip Island last weekend, where he finally consolidated his reputation as one of the hottest talents on the world scene. Melandri is the youngest ever rider to lift the world quarter-litre title, overtaking his great friend Valentino Rossi. It was an intense weekend for the 20 year old, who revealed his relief at victory in a race he went out to win `at all costs´.

`It was difficult,´ he reflects. `What with the strong wind and fighting with Fonsi. It came after a couple of days with some technical glitches. I actually started the race with a brand-new piston which was a bit risky. Rossano, my mechanic, didn´t tell me anything so I wouldn´t get worried. I´m grateful to him for that because it meant I was as calm as I should be when I started. That was great. I wanted to win at all costs, not just for the title, but because in Japan I´d lost a race I knew I shouldn´t have, and in Malaysia I´d been struck too hard by bad luck´

Melandri added how he bounced back from his disappointment at Sepang, where he retired on the first lap with an electrical problem, by focusing his energy on his title quest in Austrlia. `I kept myself physically fit by working out in the gym and was quite calm when I started practice at the weekend. I didn´t give in to the pressure my rivals tried to put me under and just did my job preparing for the race. I focused hard on my work and kept my cool, so I was in top form at the start of the race. I´ve learnt a lot over the past few years, and this was the moment when I had to put all the experience I´ve ever had into practice.´ Such a long season is difficult to assess with one race still to go, but the Italian cites the two days after his home race at Mugello in June as the most important of the year. `The Italian Grand Prix was a very important victory, but the two days of tests on the Monday and Tuesday after the race were even more important. We tried a new configuration of the RSW as I´d used it a long time before and I was really pleased with it. After just a few laps I found the feeling I thought I´d lost and I could see it was the right bike for me. After that test, everything changed. I found the pleasure of riding once more and got absolute satisfaction from riding around the track. I think Rossano and all the team really felt this change that came about in me, this newly found tranquillity in riding my bike. I just couldn´t wait to get to the next race and give an entirely new twist to the season.´ After storming to the title from that point on, Melandri is now waiting for that winning feeling to really sink in. `At the beginning you don´t even realise. Sure, after I crossed the line I was shouting in my helmet `World Champion!´, then I stopped along the track where there were two Italian friends who live in Sydney and they were shouting the same words. Then a bit further on there were other friends shouting it too. An hour later you´re already signing your name with number one next to it and you get really excited.´

With one race still to go the World Champion insists he will be remaining focused on the racetrack until the very end of the season. `I would like to put on a good show and I´d like another great duel with Fonsi Nieto. I know we can put on some great entertainment and give the public a really good time. And, I must admit, I´d like to end on a high note and win.´

250cc, 2002, Marco Melandri

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