Pata Yamaha’s Paul Denning has waited 17 years to win a title, last weekend they celebrated the WorldSBK crown across the board.
It has been a long road for the Crescent Racing side of the Yamaha WorldSBK effort to take a World Championship win but at Mandalika, Denning’s UK based operation secured the biggest production championship of them all, as the partner of Yamaha’s official technical efforts in Italy and Japan.
BSB championship winner with John Reynolds in 2004, this is another step for the always ambitious and driven boss of Crescent Racing. Securing rider, team and rookie of the year titles with both Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli.
Still wearing his championship-winning celebration T-shirt two minutes after the group photo on the paddock show, Denning was asked if he felt that maybe the title had been more or less decided two or three rounds before.
“I didn’t think it was done yesterday morning when we stuck it on pole,” Denning admitted. “Thirty points when there’s sixty-two to win, and that became fifty, it’s not even close to being done.
“There’s so much that can go right, but so much that can go wrong in a race. Also, the other reason why we never thought like that, is that you’re against Jonathan Rea who has won six titles, with a team that has won six titles with him. They don’t miss a trick. They’re absolutely on it, on the track and off the track. So, it was never assumed.
“In terms of the emotion, honestly I cried when he crossed the line. We let him down in a couple of races this year. He’s not made one… Okay, made a mistake when he ran off track, but in terms of the result, falling off, we’ve not had one non-finish because of a mistake from the rider, over 36 races. That’s ridiculous. No other rider can claim that. Not one. And he’s the world champion, deservedly, having won thirteen races.”
Other than the two technical issues - a generator/charging issue at Catalunya and his mudguard mounts breaking and causing a fall in Portimao, the Yamaha has been a much better bike in 2021 than it had been before in its sheer track-to-track consistency. For all other Yamaha riders too.
Mostly the lead rider, it seems, and also his feedback into the system that benefitted everyone.
“Obviously, Toprak won in Estoril at the end of last year, but the biggest step, and I’m not being sycophantic, but the biggest step is the rider. The season he put together was huge, but also the development that Yamaha put into the bike, focusing on not big stuff but small details and making those details count.
“I think one of the biggest differences was developing the bike around Toprak’s needs. But it seems to have worked for Loka. Garrett [Gerloff] has had an up-and-down season with a few things, but clearly he’s fast.”
Looking across at Razgatlioglu, the new world champion, sitting in his chair in the Yamaha pitbox area as we walked past, Denning said, “The bike has made a step, but the biggest step is the kid sat there.”
Watching Razgatlioglu ride is a joy for all but his rivals, but his hard braking, full commitment style usually sees a rider of any level meet the tarmac horizontally too often. Not Toprak.
When asked why this is, Denning said simply, “The talent level.
“You could pick out a number of examples from this year, but the easiest one to pick out would be FP1 here. A track that nobody has ridden a lap of. We’ve all walked one lap of it each. Dirty surface, inconsistent grip - a second and a half faster than anybody on the track… with the fact that Jonathan had a tech issue so he only did one exit. So, the gap may not have been that big. But, compared to the rest of the field, a very high quality field, a second-and-a-half gap is just incredible.
“It’s pure talent, but talent that has been honed in the way he trains with Kenan. A talent that is now just contained a little bit in terms of his maturity. He’s now able to keep the pin in the hand grenade and ride what you would call ‘smooth’ for his style. I thought it was done today. I think Jonathan was obviously going to win the race. Four laps to go, I think we had two seconds to find, and I think another lap he would have had a go at beating Johnny.”
Razgatlioglu always says he just wants to win races, but there was a discussion about the bigger goal of the championship itself, which Razgatlioglu took on board.
“Yesterday with three races to be done, we discussed that we would be for the first time all year, not focused only on winning, but focused on finishing. Because Jonathan for sure would be aggressive, and as they always are together, racing together safely but aggressively. We thought, 62 points to be won here, if we have to follow Jonathan home, then let’s do that. Today with the predicted rain this afternoon, anything can go wrong in a wet race.
“The full focus was, treat this opening race as the last race of the championship, and that’s what we did. That’s why he went so hard the last four laps.”
BSB Champions some years ago, Crescent Racing has been chasing a World Championship in MotoGP and WorldSBK for some time, but now, with Yamaha, it has become a reality. So what does it mean for Crescent, the old father and son team of John and Paul Denning?
“I’ve just got off the phone from my dad, at 03:30 or whatever it is in the morning (in the UK). It’s a big thing because from a business point of view it takes a lot of risk. From a personal point of view, there’s a lot of sacrifice to other things that you can do with your life. So, I can’t say it means everything because it’s motorcycle racing.
“We’ve lost championships very closely, particularly in British Superbike, and it doesn’t mean everything. It hurts for a while, but from a professional point of view and a sporting point of view, this moment is the best of the 25 years of our history.
“John Reynolds won BSB with us in 2004. We won three British Supersport titles. We lost three British Superbike titles at the last round of the year, which was a nervous feeling coming here!”