Yamaha detail the problems Jonathan Rea has faced so far

Jonathan Rea’s start to life at Yamaha has been nothing short of disastrous after scoring his first points of the season in the sixth race of the year.

Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK, 23 March
Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK, 23 March

Jonathan Rea left Kawasaki to join Yamaha in a bid to become an ever greater threat for the WorldSBK title.

But that has been anything but the case thus far, as Rea suffered a disastrous opening round in Phillip Island.

Leaving Australia scoreless, Rea then showed more potential in Catalunya but still had to wait until Race 2 to score points.

A clutch problem cost him the chance of fighting for points in Race 1, before narrowly missing out in the Superpole Race.

Speaking about the start to their partnership, Pata Prometeon Yamaha boss Paul Denning told WorldSBK.com: “The start of the journey between Jonathan and Yamaha has been positive in terms of him fitting into the team, the working atmosphere and how he’s enjoyed the testing with the bike but unfortunately, the first two race events have been extremely disappointing. 

“They’ve been coupled with a combination of factors, some of which were obvious to see including crashes but also factors which were unseen and hindered his performance quite significantly.

“This combination means we haven’t achieved anything like what we wanted to achieve in the first two events but the upsides are that he’s physically fit, very motivated after a solid Barcelona test.

“We have two years as a minimum to achieve what we want to achieve but as an alpha male competitor with the success he’s had, he won’t be wanting to wait too much longer before we’re fighting for the podium and achieving the results that he and the bike are capable of and we’re hoping we’ll be in a position for that to start at Assen.”

Rea has not let his head drop despite the disappointing start to 2024, nor have Yamaha who have had a very competitive package in the hands of Andrea Locatelli.

“The motivation is the same as always and super high,” added Denning. “The danger when you have challenges like we’ve had with Jonathan in the first rounds are to overreact and do the wrong things.

“The trick is to not start playing the blame game but to assess problems rationally and to stick to the process, making sure that we do the right things to recover the performance.

“It’s a challenge when things aren’t going in the right direction as you can find yourself wanting to do more and overcompensate for problems which then creates more problems than it solves.

“Clearly, there’s an adaptation in a race situation required from him as well and particularly – unusually for any rider – as he’s been on the same bike and in the same team for so long.

“The adaptation perhaps has been a bit more challenging than it might have been.

“I don’t think it’ll take too much more to grow that last big of confidence and to start having the confidence to over-extend himself and to start trusting the bike and to have the additional bit of performance to start challenging for the podium.”

Both Rea and Locatelli have new crew chiefs for 2024, with Andrew Pitt, formerly on Locatelli’s side of the garage moving across to join Rea.

Whereas for Locatelli, the former Supersport world champion has Tom O’Kane by his side, who came across from MotoGP.

Andrea Locatelli with new crew chief Tom O'Kane, WorldSBK, Catalunya, 22 March
Andrea Locatelli with new crew chief Tom O'Kane, WorldSBK, Catalunya, 22…

Discussing this dynamic, Denning admitted the next step for Locatelli is to win a race.

“Whilst there’s been frustrations on JR’s side of the garage, it’s a positive message for him that clearly, the bike is capable of running at the front,” said the team principal.

“As his confidence continues to grow, the very next step has to be to win a race and to take that step of believing you can do it to doing it and repeating it.

“The level at the front of the field being more stacked than ever before in terms of talent. He’s enjoying working with Tom; he’s very close to Andrew Pitt and still is on a personal basis.

“Perhaps they came too close in their working relationship. If you’re too close to someone on a personal basis, then you can speak to that person in a certain way that you wouldn’t do at an arm’s length professional basis.

“Tom has a very clever and calm approach to the process and hasn’t been changing the bike too much at all, doing a super-detailed, quality job.

“I can’t say that it’s a better job than what Andrew did, it’s just different. He has responded very well to that difference but ultimately and genuinely speaking, the bike he nearly won on in Australia is the same in terms of the setting balance that Andrew gave him a year ago in Australia, with small refinements and detailed changes.

“Nothing has been turned upside down but Tom’s way of working in a very structured, step-by-step basis – always with significant engineering reasoning and knowledge behind it – seems to be suiting Andrea really well.”

Read More