Andrea Locatelli: ‘Couple of riders wanted to go crazy, didn’t use their mind’

Andrea Locatelli says the incident between Michael Rinaldi and Axel Bassani was because both riders ‘wanted to go a bit crazy’.

Andrea Locatelli, Catalunya WorldSBK, 23 March
Andrea Locatelli, Catalunya WorldSBK, 23 March

Andrea Locatelli was the unfortunate bystander when Michael Rinaldi and Axel Bassani made contact for the second year in succession at the Catalunya WorldSBK round.

Last year the two Italians came to blows on the exit of turn ten which resulted in Rinaldi crashing out. 

Fast-forward to 2024 and the pair made contact again which led to both riders not finishing Race 2, while it also dropped Locatelli to the back of the field as the Yamaha rider was unable to avoid the incident.

Locatelli said: “We finished today with an unlucky race – just because in the beginning a couple of riders wanted to go a bit crazy and didn’t have a mind to manage the race. 

“I was close to crash when Rinaldi and Bassani went down in front of me, but I was really lucky not to. In the end, I enjoyed the races, I tried to push on the maximum and get the best feeling with the bike.

“For Race 2, I think we were more competitive than yesterday: we improved the grip and the life of the tyre, so this is something good for us and the team to understand the direction as well as to give us a lot of data.

“I can’t say that I’m really happy with the results but we are always pushing, every session, to try to do the maximum and we know that here in Barcelona it is not the best track for us.

“This is all we can say – I am happy about my level, happy about the guys because we never make a mistake and the R1 is working well, so let’s look forward in a positive way and see what we can do in Assen.”

Locatelli was not close to claiming victory like in Phillip Island, which was not a great surprise as Catalunya has been a difficult venue for Yamaha in recent seasons.

With Jonathan Rea also struggling, Yamaha had to rely on Remy Gardner securing their best result in Race 2.

Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK, 22 March
Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK, 22 March

Debriefing the weekend, Yamaha Motor Europe’s Motorsport R&D and Road Racing Manager, Andrea Dosoli said: “In Superbike, this is a challenging track for us as the grip is very low and riders need to work hard to conserve the tyre.

“This means we cannot always maximise the strengths of our bike as the rider has to be more careful when they are using the side of the tyre – which is where the R1 is strong.

“Considering this, Locatelli has been quick all weekend and had a strong first race and made a step compared to 2023 which is a good sign we have made the right steps with the development.

“For sure, it is not enough to fight for the podium but we knew this track would be challenging for us.

“Unfortunately in race two, he could not express his talent as he had to go straight on in lap one to avoid the bikes on the track after the Rinaldi/Bassani incident.

“But he put his head down and made up a lot of positions with a good pace considering the circumstances, to finish 13th when at the end of the first lap he was last with a ten second gap to the rider in front shows his commitment and motivation.

“Keeping the focus on the official team, it has not been the start to the season any of us wanted for Jonathan.

“After the disappointment on the grid of race one and then difficulty backshifting in the Superpole Race, we saw a positive reaction for the second race which saw Jonathan take his first points of the season and collect some important data in the race so he could better understand the characteristics of the bike over a full distance race.

“I am sure in Assen the situation will be different and he will be back where he deserves to be and the team is working hard to make this happen.”

Fifth in Race 1, Locatelli’s results over the weekend got worse which led to him slipping back to seventh in the standings.

Scoring his first points of the year in Race 2, Rea is currently 17th in the championship on eight points.

Speaking after Sunday’s double-header, team principal Paul Denning added: “Catalunya has never been our “best friend” in the past, in fact it has been one of our most challenging circuits, and unfortunately today it wasn’t kind to us again.

“That said, from a performance point of view, the team, Yamaha and the riders gave their best and it was a relief after such a tough start to the season to see Jonathan get his first points on the board with a very consistent ride in Race 2.

Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK, Race 2, 24 March
Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK, Race 2, 24 March

“The race was definitely made more difficult by missing the 20 laps of experience and data from yesterday, but he was less than two seconds from fifth place at the flag so we’ll take that as a confidence builder on JR’s side as we head towards Assen – one of his favourite circuits.

“Loka has ridden fantastic all weekend, just as well as he did in Australia when he was on the podium, but he got extremely unlucky as he was forced to run off the track to avoid the crash of Rinaldi and Bassani on Lap 1.

“He kept his concentration levels to claw his way back into the points, and had the pace to fight for fourth position – so, like Australia, Loka’s best performing package was in Race 2 but bad luck intervened.

“Whilst it’s been a challenging weekend, there are positives to take – as a group, we will continue to work hard and make sure Yamaha and the team is back where it belongs in Assen.”

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