Yamaha set for its WSBK finale
Two years after sealing its first World Superbike riders' title at Portimao, Yamaha returns to the circuit for its final outing as a factory-backed operation.
Yamaha is looking to end its participation in the World Superbike Championship as a factory-supported entity on a high as Marco Melandri targets wins and Eugene Laverty looks to secure third in the overall standings.
Three months after Yamaha confirmed it will not continue in the World Superbike Championship, the Italian-based team will withdraw from the series at the end of the Portimao weekend, though it is rumoured the manufacturer will return in a semi-privateer form next year.
A fitting place to enjoy its final WSBK appearance, Portimao was the scene of Yamaha's one and only riders' title in 2009 when Ben Spies overhauled Noriyuki Haga for the championship.
Fast forward two years and Yamaha can be satisfied with its efforts in 2011, with WSBK rookie Melandri securing the runners-up spot behind Carlos Checa, while the ultra-consistent Laverty has just moved into third place.
With a switch to BMW looming in 2012, Melandri is keen to bring his brief, but successful tenure with BMW to a satisfying close.
"We tested in Portimao at the beginning of the year, shortly after having shoulder surgery. The weather was bad on the second day so in the end I didn't have very much track time to get comfortable with the layout. It seems like a technical and a difficult circuit, but I really like it. I hope it doesn't rain this weekend so I can make the most of Friday and Saturday to learn my lines so I can be strong enough to fight for a win on Sunday."
Tipped with a move to Aprilia machinery for next season, Laverty will battle it out for third place overall with potential new team-mate Max Biaggi, should the Italian return from injury.
"It was nice to be back on the podium again in Magny Cours and I aim to continue that momentum in Portimao. It would be nice to end the season with a race win, it's been quite a while since my victory in Monza. Max will probably be back and fighting for third place in the championship, but I'll be giving it my best shot to stay where I am now and end the year third in the overall standings. I'm looking forward to the final battle."
Several rumours regarding the future of Yamaha have circulated since the confirmation it was pulling its factory support, but as yet no announcement has been made.