Michael Laverty replaces Marco Melandri at Aprilia MotoGP team

Aprilia has announced that Michael Laverty will return to MotoGP to replace Marco Melandri in its Gresini-run factory team from this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring

Michael Laverty replaces Marco Melandri at Aprilia MotoGP team

The long-rumoured end of 2005 runner-up Melandri's unsuccessful MotoGP comeback was confirmed by Aprilia earlier on Wednesday.

Laverty, whose younger brother Eugene is in his MotoGP rookie season with Honda customer team Aspar, has already been working with Aprilia as its test rider (pictured) alongside a British Superbike campaign.

He contested the last two MotoGP seasons with Paul Bird Motorsport.

"Competing against the regular guys racing MotoGP is a tough task, but I am relishing the opportunity," said the 34-year-old from Northern Ireland, who joins Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia race line-up.

"I have been riding with the test team so I am comfortable with the Aprilia RS-GP machine and the Bridgestone tyres.

"Alvaro has been riding strongly in this first half of the season and I have witnessed some great development work through the test team."

Aprilia racing manager Romano Albesiano believes Laverty's promotion will speed up development as the team works towards the introduction of its new bike in 2016.

"With Michael working alongside Bautista we will continue development efforts on our bike directly in the races," he said.

"Michael has worked a lot in recent months. With his indications after his first race we'll be able to streamline development, especially in terms of the chassis, where right now we are the most limited."

BAUTISTA HAS PRE-RACE SURGERY

Bautista heads to the Sachsenring having undergone surgery on compartment syndrome - or arm pump - since the previous round at Assen.

"I decided to move the operation up as soon as possible because in recent races it had been bothering me a bit," he said.

"Now I'll have to see if I'm able to ride more comfortably."

The Spaniard has led Aprilia's challenge this season while Melandri struggled, taking five points finishes from the season's eight grands prix so far with a best result of 10th at Barcelona.

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