There was no press release. There was no formal statement. But it became obvious Tuesday that Marco Melandri will ride a factory Aprilia in 2014 in World Superbike, because Melandri tested an RSV4 works machine at Jerez.
Superbike Planet reports that Melandri will replace 2013 WSBK runner-up Eugene Laverty, who is weighing his options for MotoGP rides or possibly staying in World Superbike with Suzuki in 2014. Melandri became a free agent earlier this summer when BMW announced it was withdrawing its factory team from WSBK.
Former MotoGP rider Melandri is still under contract to BMW, so he could not talk about the test. He reportedly turned a top lap in the low 1:43 range, about 1.5 seconds slower than new champion Tom Sykes' quickest lap last weekend. But Melandri also is hobbled by a leg injury suffered in a fall at home before the season finale last weekend at Jerez.
Jonny Rea and Loris Baz returned to their Honda and Kawasaki, respectively, for the first time since suffering injuries in separate accidents early last month at the Nurburgring. Rea suffered a broken femur, Baz a broken vertebra.—Paul Duchene
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