Pata Yamaha’s Andrea Locatelli stepped up in Phillip Island scoring a podium in the closing race of WorldSBK’s opening round.
For almost everyone in WorldSBK, this year was going to be all about Alvaro Bautista versus Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu, but at the first time of asking we got two podiums for Michael Rinaldi and one for Locatelli, in the full distance Race Two.
Yes, Rea and in particular his own teammate Razgatlioglu were in crisis by their normal standards in Race Two, but Locatelli had looked good in everything except Superpole qualifying, in testing and in the races. Fourth, fifth and third place race results put him second overall after round one, albeit 28 points behind the phenomenal Bautista.
“In the end, we get a lot of gap with respect to Bautista,” said ‘Loka’ about his second full distance race at PI.
“We know that here was a bit difficult, but I’m really happy about our weekend. In the end, no mistakes during the race.
“I was a little bit struggling,” he continued. “Especially in Superpole because we started from P9 so it was not easy, especially yesterday on the wet. Today on the Superpole race, it was a bit difficult. Especially here on this track, we always see it’s difficult to overtake. In the end, we close on the P5 during the Superpole race, but in the end, I want to try to leave here at Phillip Island with a podium. In the end, we can get this, so I’m really happy and I’m really proud of my job and the job of the guys because we’re working well during the winter test in Portimao and Jerez. So, I think this is one objective.
“For sure, we need to continue to work, to try to be more close. But I repeat, we know that on this track probably was difficult, but we always try and we will see what happens also next week [in Mandalika]. I think we have a good package, so we try to deliver on this and we can get the maximum that we can have.”
Locatelli was unsure why his teammate was struggling at times in PI, even if he did secure the Superpole Qualifying ‘win’ and was on the podium twice. Well behind Bautista each time, however.
“It’s difficult to say, but I just can say Toprak is a bit different riding style,” said Locatelli, who often works with Razgatlioglu in qualifying to improve overall performance. “So probably this is the problem. I don’t know, it’s just my idea. I don’t know what happened on the inside. I’m a bit disappointed because I think also the last year was not so bad here.”
As three podiums from three proves - two for Razgatlioglu and one for Locatelli - the Yamaha is working well. Loka agrees. “Yeah, exactly,” he said. “We always continue to work, to be more in front and try to be in front. Fortunately, we’re working well. In my side, we are working well during the preseason, so we arrive here with a good idea, with a good base setup. We try pushing and always everything was good. So for me, it’s difficult to say what happened about Toprak.”
When pushed some more about why he was top Yamaha rider in Race Two even before Razgatlioglu was accidentally taken out of the race, Loka said, “For sure the layout helps my riding style probably. We will see because I think in the end we have a good package for braking, to turning, to exit of the corner. So we will see what happens also in the next week. For sure it’s good compare to understand also in which point we are, in my side. In the end, we need to get what we can, get the good points. Here was for sure a good situation, and we keep this.”
This is an important year for Locatelli, especially as Yamaha has beefed up its de-facto third and fourth factory bikes with riders like Moto2 Champion Remy Gardner and a double WorldSSP Champion in Dominique Aegerter. He knows all this but is concentrating on himself and the good work he and his crew chief Andrew Pitt have been doing in the off season.
“For sure, this winter we were working well and when we arrive here, everything was more clear,” he confirmed. “I think this is the result because we’re working well in the end. For sure, the situation helps us to be more in front.”
He sees himself as a more experienced rider than last year, in what is his third season in WorldSBK now. “For sure I have more experience. I understand more fast and also what happens sometimes on the bike, so for sure the experience is helping everybody. It’s just my third year on the Superbike. It’s a long time but also short time, respect to Alvaro for example or respect to Rinaldi or Toprak or Johnny. We can say a lot of names but for sure, I also believe in my job and I want to always work. So I think in the end this is the result and I think the work always helps on the result. So this is enough.”