Former WorldSSP outfit steps up with factory-supported machinery next year.
GRT Yamaha will step up to the premier category in the 2019 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK), fielding Superbike regular Marco Melandri and 2018 WorldSSP champion Sandro Cortese.
The team will utilise factory-supported Yamaha YZF-R1 machines as both riders bring a wealth of experience to the outfit, which will prove to be beneficial in its maiden Superbike campaign.
28-year-old Cortese took five race wins and 10 podium finishes on his way to being crowned as the first ever Moto3 world champion in 2012, while he secured the 2018 WorldSSP title in his debut season aboard a Yamaha YZF-R6 with a podium finish in the final round in Qatar.
“To win the WorldSSP championship and then step up to WorldSBK with the GRT Yamaha Team is like a dream come true for me,” said Cortese. “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 team manager Filippo Conti commented: “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.”
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 26 November.