Andrea Locatelli did not just score himself another podium on his factory Pata Yamaha at Most to add to his podium from Assen, he had his best ever weekend in WorldSBK so far and added to the list of potential winners in 2021..
“It’s the only weekend I have a good feeling with the bike, but in some parts also, in the exit of the corners I lose a little bit the grip and I can make a little bit more faster and I can take a little bit more speed in the exit of the corner,” said ‘Loka’.
“In the end I need to say we made a really good job because maybe is the best weekend. We made a podium and we made two fourth places. It’s the best weekend, because in Assen we make third, fourth, and fifth. In the end, we need to stay happy because we are in front. We are faster now. I think I have more confidence with the bike. I have a good feeling. For sure, we will continue on this way.”
One of the regular international media members asked a question based on what Yamaha Racing chief Andrea Dosoli has apparently said to him about Locatelli. The question ran - and we may be paraphrasing here - that Dosoli had said that on the big tracks Locatelli knows well, like Assen for example, Locatelli is already very fast, like top five in the world. Now he just needed to prove that he also had 'big balls' for special tracks, like Most.
Deadpan, Locatelli replied, “When I go on the shower, I check every time if I have a ball. Fortunately I have…! Also in this track I try to take out a little bit more because for sure it’s not easy. But also in my career, when I need to make a little bit more, I can fight. I don’t want to stop. For sure, I’m happy, but also I’m not really happy because I want more.
'It’s normal. For me, it’s normal. But in the end, I never think that we arrive here (Most) we can do very well. But the layout is so nice for us, also for Yamaha. It’s not so bad. But immediately we started very well. We work every weekend so nicely and we improved a little bit every session. In the end, I think we make a really good job.”
The most remarkable thing about Locatelli is that he arrived in the WorldSBK paddock as a rookie last season, having been in the smaller GP categories all his career. He was the most spectacularly successful WorldSSP rider of all time - as a rookie remember - in 2020. This year is he is already going to-to-toe and even beating many of the best to podiums at the halfway point of the season. So does he feel like a rookie, even if he is not riding like one anymore?
“I think I’m a rookie. Also I say I’m a rookie. I don't know, but also my speed now coming every day is much better. Also my brain works a lot to improve. I think it’s strange. In the last year, also this year, my feeling. I like if I am a little bit more old, if I have more experience. Because when I was 20 years old, I don’t have experience and also my mentality was not so strong. Now I have 25 years, and the feeling is I’m much, much bigger and also my brain is much stronger. This is I think the key. Also now I’m much stronger and also I’m confident with me. I have more experience in this category because I arrive and after six weekends, we are very fast. The feeling is like I’m inside on this category a lot of time, but it’s just the first year.”
The disparity in how soon riders become successful in MotoGP compared to WorldSBK is quite stark, with top new stars like Locatelli, Razgatlioglu, Gerloff and so on in their mid-twenties, while in MotoGP GP podium riders can be five years younger, more or less. What does Locatelli make of that, and could he still have a chance to go back over into MotoGP?
“I never rode in MotoGP, but I think I’m sure that if we have a possibility to ride a little bit and to make a test and also we make maybe one season, why not we can go fast?” said Loka. “I rode in 2016 with Fabio Quartararo in Moto3. He doesn’t make too much more with respect to me. In the end of the season, he finished in the back of me in the standings with a local team. We have the same bike, the same stuff. But I don't know. This is the life. This is another paddock. I enjoy it a lot here. It’s a little bit different. I work with nice guys. In the MotoGP paddock, the feeling is also sometimes so difficult to work in the paddock. Maybe for me it’s better here.
"This is the feeling. I don’t have the experience in MotoGP, but maybe if I can ride in MotoGP for a little bit, maybe to make some races, maybe I can go fast also in MotoGP. I don't know. I’m not sure. I believe in this because I would like to try. But for me now, I have just focus to stay here to try to make the best work here and to try to make really good results here.”