Roberto Rolfo will make a full-time return to the World Superbike championship for the first time since 2011 after signing a deal with Team Grillini who moves to Suzuki machinery for 2018.
The Italian rider endured a mixed 2017 campaign after a winning start in World Supersport for Vamag MV Agusta was followed by disappointing results and his eventual split from the team midway through the season.
Rolfo returned to World Supersport with a wildcard outing at Magny-Cours before acting as replacement rider for Team Grillini in Qatar where his double points finish has led to a 2018 deal in World Superbike.
The Italian team is also making a manufacturer switch to Suzuki for next season, ending a five-year relationship with Kawasaki, to see a full-time return of the new GSX-R1000 to the grid and boosting manufacturer entry numbers in the series to eight.
The 37-year-old rider, who has a wealth of experience in Grand Prix and production racing, is relishing a fresh challenge on a Suzuki back in WSBK and has thanked team owner Andrea Grillini for the opportunity to impress next year.
“I am very happy to be back in WorldSBK. I am very motivated to race on a Suzuki, a bike that I have always followed but I have never had the chance to try,” Rolfo said. “After Qatar’s positive experience, I thank Andrea Grillini for this opportunity.
“During the last race of the 2017 season, I was feeling very positive with a desire to do well, and that is very important to me – so I can start the next season in the best way. I can’t wait to get on the bike and find the right chemistry with the team. I have started my training to be ready and in the best shape, for the first round in February.”
Grillini was thrilled by the instant connection Rolfo had with his team at the 2017 season finale and has faith the experienced rider can lead the development of the bike during the season.
“I have known Roberto for a long time, but in Qatar we immediately found a great feeling and we started talking about a possible agreement for 2018,” Grillini said. “He found the new project with Suzuki interesting and like me, he thinks that we can do well.
“I need a serious person with experience to develop a bike, that at the moment is not present in WorldSBK and to me he perfectly embodies this figure. I’m really happy to have come to an agreement with him.”