GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Marco Melandri, has announced that he intends to retire from racing immediately after the final round of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship in Qatar. The 36-year-old Italian's decision to hang up his leathers will bring to a close a World Championship career that has spanned three decades.

15-year-old Melandri burst onto the world stage in 1998 in the 125cc class of MotoGP and immediately made his mark, taking his first win at Assen to become the youngest ever Grand Prix winner, a record that stood for 10 years. He went on to win once more that year and ended his debut Grand Prix season in third place in the World Championship contention. The following season, Melandri won five races but missed out on being crowned 125cc World Champion by just a single point.

Marco Melandri announces his retirement image


More success came with a step up to the 250cc World Championship. Melandri dominated the class in 2002, taking nine race wins on his way to being crowned 250cc World Champion. A move to the premier class followed, with Melandri's most successful MotoGP season coming in 2005 when he won the final two races and finished second in the World Championship to Valentino Rossi.

"The decision to retire was a very difficult one for me to make. I'd been thinking about it for some time and, before the Imola race, I finally decided to call it a day at the end of the 2019 season," said Melandri.

In 2011 Melandri made the switch from MotoGP to WorldSBK, winning four races in his first season aboard Yamaha's YZF-R1 to finish the year as vice-champion. Since making his debut in the premiere production class, the Italian has secured 75 podium finishes, 22 of which were race wins, making him one of the most successful riders on the WorldSBK grid.

And while these results are already impressive, Melandri is determined to add to them before finally hanging up his leathers in Qatar and bringing to a close an incredible racing career.

"I'm still competitive and I think it's better to stop at this point, while I still enjoy racing, rather than waiting until the enjoyment and the results are more difficult to achieve," added Melandri.