The most astounding champion there ever was in WorldSSP racing last year has not only become the best rookie this year, but one of the top riders in his own right in WorldSBK after a steller weekend at Navarra for Pata Yamaha’s Andrea Locatelli.
His podium ambitions were just that at the northern Spanish venue, but despite not earning top-threes like he did in Assen and then Most, he is maybe deep down more satisfied to be right behind the runaway leading trio than with one fleeting podium visit. Having claimed fourth all round, from Superpole to race two, and even briefly led a race.
He celebrated his final fourth with a giant wheelie across the line in Sunday’s race two, as he felt he had put in a special Spanish weekend.
“Exactly, because in the end, maybe now this moment is the maximum for me, to do P4,” Locatelli explained from the Los Arcos paddock.
“We try to enjoy on this moment because it’s not a funeral! We need to be happy because we work very well. Also for my team, I want to say a lot of thanks because we don’t make a mistake and we worked well.
“For sure, we need to improve a little bit more to stay on the front group and fight for the podium, but I think we worked very well. Now we are on the maximum. For sure, I need a little bit more experience maybe. This is everything. I repeat, maybe now is the maximum that I can do.”
The three riders up front are special this year, and much more experienced than ‘Loka’ but Locatelli has taken no time to get to within their orbit, and make them all work hard to pass him and make it stick. He is aware that although not winning, he is staying close to ‘the special ones.’
“I’m the next one,” he said. “Maybe today during race two, if I don’t make a mistake when try to pass Redding. Also Johnny don’t try to overtake me and also Lowes don’t touch me, maybe I can try on the first part of the race staying with the first group, and maybe in the end when Johnny close a lot in the front, maybe I can. But I see Johnny come back. Maybe we can get a podium.
“In the end, we need to be happy because it’s another excellent weekend for us. Now we have Magny-Cours. Is another race, another track. For sure, this is my first time because I never ride with the Superbike before. But, no pressure. We will continue on this way and I think we can do very well.”
On Saturday Locatelli proved a tough obstacle for even his ebullient and now championship leading team-mate to overcome, but Locatelli had his own weird technical issue to overcome.
“I made a mistake and also I lost a little bit of a gap in the first lap because, I don’t know why,” Locatelli said about how others did manage to get past him in Saturday’s outing.
“We had a problem with the gear box. I lost third gear one or two times, also on the first lap when I go out in the last corner go inside the neutral. The blipper was not working. We will need to check because it’s strange. We lose many times.
“I’m really happy because the gap is not so big. I say it’s not easy to ride in this condition for us, but for sure we can improve a little bit.”