Yamaha: Jonathan Rea’s record at Assen ‘ridiculous, but we don’t expect zero to hero’

Jonathan Rea has 17 WorldSBK wins to his name at Assen, making it his most successful circuit ahead of Portimao.

Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK,
Jonathan Rea, Catalunya WorldSBK,

Despite a troubled start to the 2024 WorldSBK season, expectations will be high for Jonathan Rea at Assen this weekend.

Yamaha are one of just two manufacturers that have failed to win a race so far this season, with Honda being the other, and although that might be an unrealistic target for Rea, fighting at the front can’t be ruled out entirely. 

Andrea Locatelli has shown that the R1 has the potential to fight for wins, therefore Rea has a package underneath him that could be competitive, is he gets over the issues that have plagued him during testing and in particular the opening round at Phillip Island.

Speaking about Rea’s chances, Pata Prometeon Yamaha team principal Paul Denning said: “As a neutral, the start of the championship has just been awesome.

“I fully expect more very exciting racing and great action. From our perspective, particularly on JR’s side, we need to roll out in FP1 with a package that immediately gives him confidence and build the weekend from there.

“He’s won 17 races at Assen, it’s ridiculous! It’s a track that he’s always given his best level at and there have been seasons where perhaps it’s been more of a struggle with the Kawasaki but he’s still been on for a competitive result there.

“It’s a great place; we don’t expect to go from zero to hero but it’s a great track for him to take a significant step and build the rest of the season from.”

Had it not been for a false neutral on the final lap of round one, Rea’s team-mate Locatelli could have secured victory.

Instead, the Italian crashed out before heading to Barcelona where Ducati and BMW took a step forward compared to the Japanese brand.

“On Locatelli’s side, he’s riding full of confidence, chipping away very intelligently at the programme and I don’t see why he can’t be ultra-competitive at Assen,” added Denning.

“There are still frustrations on Loka’s side in that the unfortunate last lap problem at Phillip Island where – in the very worst case – he’d have finished third if he’d have given up on the job but it looked like he was going to finish second or first, cost us a chunk of points.

“Then, avoiding an accident on the first lap in Barcelona meant that he could only come back and grab a couple points at the end of the race.

“If you take off his first lap time, his pace was more than good enough for a finish in the top four so he should be P2 or at worst P3 in the standings. It’d be a nice confirmation of the potential but it’s clearly there and he’s riding better than ever.”

“We’re in a position right now as a team, rider and manufacturer where you can’t get away with any compromises or mistakes; everything has to be on point to have a chance at challenging for victory.

“If we can get everything on point at Assen, then I think it’s a good opportunity for ‘Loka’ to make that next step.”

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