Marco Melandri says his debut Ducati win in Sunday’s second race of the Rimini World Superbike round was ‘payback for all the sacrifices’ he and his team have made this season.

2002 250cc world champion Melandri made a much-questioned return to the WorldSBK this year with Ducati, following a year on the sidelines when he quit Aprilia’s fledgling MotoGP project halfway through the 2015 season.

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Melandri was able to prove from the first round he did have the pace to challenge the leaders in the series and scored seven podium from the first 10 races.

Feeling positive ahead of his home round after a test at Misano resolved many of his acceleration issues with the Panigale, Melandri was on target for victory in race one when he crashed on the final lap.

Eager to make up for this on Sunday, the Italian carved his way through the pack from 10th on the grid to take the lead on lap 13.

Immediately opening up a gap, Melandri cruised to his 20th WorldSBK win and the 100th for Italy in the championship – a feat he is greatly proud of and one, amongst other things, he attributes to excellent teamwork.

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This win means so much to me,” an exultant Melandri said.

It’s my first with Ducati and first on Italian soil but also the 100th by an Italian in WorldSBK.

It’s the result of a lot of efforts, a composed attitude during some difficult moments, and great teamwork.

We never stopped believing in ourselves, and this result is a payback for all the sacrifices.”

Despite starting from the fourth row of the grid, a small change to his Panigale had Melandri feeling certain he could be a contender in Sunday’s 21-lap contest.

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Now with a taste for victory – his first since the 2014 French round – Melandri has his sights set on more at Laguna Seca and hopes he will be able to challenge alongside team-mate Chaz Davies, who missed Sunday’s race after suffering a back fracture in a crash in race one.

We made a small change to our set-up this morning, and before the start I was sure I could have a go at it.

During the race, I tried to manage my pace and, one I took the lead, to ride smoothly.

I hope Chaz recovers soon, he had a nasty crash but fortunately without serious injury. I hope to be able to fight for another win, this time with him on track as well, at Laguna Seca.”

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