DENNING PREVIEWS ASSEN: “A great place for Rea to take a significant step”

The 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is nearing the completion of its first quarter as the TT Circuit Assen awaits and the Pirelli Dutch Round. The Cathedral of Speed has often led to being the home of dreams and this year, the Pata Prometeon Yamaha team of Jonathan Rea and Andrea Locatelli will be hoping to be fast from the start. It’s been a tricky start to 2024 for Rea, with just eight points from six races whereas teammate Locatelli has been on the podium and fighting for race wins, even if Barcelona was a round where he struggled more. You can enjoy a full in-depth chat with Paul Denning here, before getting the team boss’ thoughts ahead of round three below.

Assen is a circuit where Yamaha have been competitive at in the past but not won at in 15 years; Ben Spies was the last winner there in 2009’s epic Race 1, whereas Noriyuki Haga gave Yamaha their first and only other win in 2000’s hair-raising Race 2. Recent years have seen Toprak Razgatlioglu on the podium, as well as Andrea Locatelli – who has taken a rostrum there in the last three years, including his first in 2021. However, this year is different and with Jonathan Rea aiming to breakthrough onto the rostrum, where better to do it than at the track where he’s won 17 times and been on the podium at 25 times.

“WE DON’T EXPECT TO GO FROM ZERO TO HERO” – can Rea mount a rostrum charge?

Looking ahead to Assen, Denning previewed the Pata Prometeon Yamaha hopes: “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. 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.”

A LOCATELLI WIN AT ASSEN? “It’s a good opportunity for ‘Loka’ to make that next step”

Talking more about Locatelli’s start to the season, Denning was impressed with the #55 despite misfortune: “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.”

Summarising overall, will Assen be the place where ‘Loka’ mounts the top step? “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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