Denning talks "learning great lessons" and taking "a big step forward"

Wednesday, 4 November 2020 10:59 GMT

Pata Yamaha Team Manager Paul Denning discusses the 2020 season and the arrival of Andrea Locatelli for 2021 campaign

After a race-winning and scoring consistent podiums throughout the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official’s Paul Denning (Team Manager) sat down with to look back on an “exciting” year but also look ahead to the 2021 season as the team has a new rider line-up with Andrea Locatelli moving to WorldSBK following a dominant WorldSSP Championship.

The season started perfectly for the Japanese manufacturer as Turkish sensation Toprak Razgatlioglu claimed victory in his first ever race for Yamaha and he went on to claim nine podiums and three victories across the 2020 season; with the remaining two coming at the season-ending Estoril Round. Michael van der Mark also claimed victory for the team, in the Tissot Superpole Race at the Catalunya Round, as both riders took to the top step of the rostrum throughout the season.

Reacting to the season, Denning said: “For the team, it’s been an exciting year. We’re always there. The level of machine has improved again, Yamaha have done a great job with the R1. It’s been positive but maybe not quite as positive as we perhaps could have hoped for. Mickey, at the first round of the Championship, was half a second off the win, one second off the win and didn’t score a podium in the racing that was crazy. He’s gradually increased his level over the course of the year.”

He added: “Toprak, obviously, started in spectacular fashion both at Phillip Island and when we came back to racing at Jerez. At the Aragon, Teruel, Catalunya and French Rounds, the wheels had kind of fallen off the challenge a little bit. We all know Toprak, talent wise, speed wise and certainly battling wise on the track, has all the credentials to win. We just need to put it all together over the course of the season. There’s been some great lessons learnt this year and I think, going into 2021, we can take a big step forward.”

With van der Mark moving to the BMW outfit for next season, 2020 WorldSSP Champion Locatelli will move straight into the Yamaha factory team for 2021 after his dominant season for the BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team. Denning discussed this at Estoril, praising van der Mark for four years with the team that brought four victories, as well as aspirations for Locatelli’s debut season.

Denning said: “We’ve seen Mickey take a step forward this year with his dedication to development and becoming the de facto team leader. It’s been four years with us and there’s absolutely no complaints. He likes to pretend he doesn’t work hard, but he really does work hard. It’s a shame he’s leaving. We would have preferred he stayed but in the end, we’ve had four very good years together and no complaints at all.”

Locatelli got his first taste of a superbike in a post-season one-day test at Estoril, which was cut short due to inclement weather. Discussing Locatelli, Denning explained: “It’s quite difficult to measure Andrea’s credentials on a superbike when he’s not yet ridden one but the fact he dominated the World Supersport Championship in a fashion that’s never been seen before this year, and showed such good race craft. Andrea’s also from the same school as very successful riders like Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo, who grew up in that Moto3™ shark pit environment. I think to jump from the 600 to the Superbike and expect to be a winner in year one is a big ask, but if you look at the guys who have jumped up in recent years such as Jonathan, Mickey, Chaz etc. they’ve been fast straight away on the superbike so that’s our aspiration for Andrea.”

Relive the best bits of the 2020 WorldSBK season and look ahead to 2021 with the WorldSBK VideoPass!