Just how has Andrea Locatelli come into WorldSSP as a rookie and been able to wrap the Championship up so early with almost total domination?
It rarely happens in any Championship class, it has never happened in the FIM Superbike World Championship paddock; it’s happened only a few times in motorcycle racing history, the most recent in a World Championship being Giacomo Agostini in 1970. You hear of people winning Championships without winning a race but it’s a true gem to win nearly everything on your way to World Championship glory. In 2020, rookie Andrea Locatelli (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) has won all but one race, and even then, it was only the weather that stopped him. He’s wrapped the title race up with some four races to go. WorldSSP has never witnessed such a whirlwind.
Locatelli came into the World Supersport Championship in a bid to show to the world that he could be Champion. A mildly successful yet rather uneventful spell in the Moto2™ World Championship saw him leave the MotoGP™ paddock at the end of 2019 and head to World Supersport’s best team – reigning Champions BARDAHL Yamaha. Fabio Evangelista’s Italian team know exactly how to win races and coming into 2020 after their first Riders’ and Teams’ Championships in 2019 filled them all with confidence. But nobody could’ve expected what was on the horizon.
Straight out the box in Australia and Andrea Locatelli was immediately on top Down Under, smoking the opposition to storm to victory by over five seconds. A similar domination to Alvaro Bautista in his debut race in WorldSBK in 2019 but never did we think it’d carry on. Lockdown ensued but Locatelli certainly wasn’t going to be put off. He came to Jerez in July to prove a point and doubled up in Race 1 and Race 2, before heading to the unknown Portimao a week later and doing it again – a track he’d never seen before and in Race 1, with strong competition from Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha). All the time however, it was the metronomic consistency that was capturing the headlines and captivating the fans: fastest laps set, records broken, pole positions secured and valiant victories thereafter.
Then, it was MotorLand Aragon and back-to-back events on a track that Locatelli knew extremely well. The Italian youngster cleaned up with the opposition in the opening Prosecco DOC Aragon Round, albeit having to fight a little bit more than we’d seen before. The Pirelli Teruel Round was equally as tough and in Race 2, it looked like Locatelli may have finally had to fight in true, frantic WorldSSP fashion, as Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), Cluzel and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) brought the fight to the very front. However, De Rosa wiped out Cluzel at Turn 1 early in the race, releasing Locatelli and although Mahias stayed with him for half the race, Locatelli’s ultra-consistent pace broke Mahias.
Now, it’s just Round 6 of an eight-round schedule, but already Locatelli has locked up. He’s pinned down the Championship, locked out the opposition and shut up shop for the others’ title challenge. It’s quite simply breathtaking and rarely is a Championship bolted up this early and rarely are there so many wins – yes, there’s perhaps more opportunity to win in 2020 but not that much more; an average 13-race calendar has had two more tacked on the end and Locatelli’s ten wins thus for have been achieved in less than 13 races. His dominance knows no boundaries.
So, what next for ‘Loka’ and his domination? Speculation is rife about a potential move to WorldSBK, something he’s been keen to make, having revealed it back in June. Yamaha do have a spare seat at PATA YAMAHA following Michael van der Mark’s departure at the end of 2020. However, we’ve seen time and time again that jumping up from WorldSSP to WorldSBK isn’t easy. Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) is the shining example of how to do it, coming up as Champion in 2012 and winning in his first year, having clinched the 2011 WorldSSP crown. Cal Crutchlow did it a couple of years previously whilst Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) has also had great success in both classes. It can be done, but only, seemingly, by a few.
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