2022 IN REVIEW – Yamaha’s Denning: "The level was far higher… as a team and a rider, you had to be perfect everywhere"

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 09:13 GMT

Second place for Yamaha in 2022 followed their title-winning campaign and Team Manager Paul Denning has reflected on their campaign

After taking the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship crown in 2021, Yamaha and the Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK squad were once again in the title fight in 2022 but had to settle for second place with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) in the Riders’ Championship after a hard-fought campaign. After the season ended, Team Manager Paul Denning looked back on the 2022 campaign for both Razgatlioglu and teammate Andrea Locatelli who ended his second campaign in WorldSBK in fifth place.

Razgatlioglu ended the 2022 campaign with 14 wins and 29 podiums to finish in second place, taking one more win than in his title-winning campaign and the same number of podiums. After taking his first win of the season at Misano, Razgatlioglu won 14 of the next 25 races to haul himself into title contention, but a Race 1 crash at San Juan allowed Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) to pull further clear of Razgatlioglu in the standings.

Reflecting on Yamaha’s 2022 season, Denning said: “We won 13 races last year with Toprak and 14 this year. As it’s turned out this year, with Alvaro making one mistake in the whole season which was Donington when he tucked the front and had a DNF, as a team, as a rider, you just had to be perfect everywhere. Not being perfect cost us the chance to bring the fight to Phillip Island. Alvaro deserves the Championship. The bottom line is we didn’t quite have enough to win the title but, by any other measure, it was a very successful season.”

Denning also looked back on the season as a whole and how much of a formidable package the combination of Bautista and the Panigale V4 R was after the Spaniard’s return to the Italian manufacturer. Although Yamaha and Razgatlioglu were able to run Bautista close throughout the season, Bautista wrapped up the title with a round to spare in Indonesia to become the third different Champion from a third different manufacturer in three seasons.

Looking back on the key moments of 2022, Denning said: “What needs to be acknowledged is that the Bautista-Ducati package and the level that Jonathan and Kawasaki got to this year was far, far higher than last year. With exactly the same tyres from Pirelli, and the exact same regulations, we were destroying pole position lap times, destroying race distance lap times sometimes by an average of a second a lap and that includes Aragon and Assen; we were so much faster than we’ve ever been there before. In that single measurement, you could say that was a great step. But the bottom line is it wasn’t enough to run with those two guys. Toprak was leading when he and Jonathan crashed together at Assen; that didn’t help as well because suddenly those two difficult first events were capped off by a DNF.

“The points deficit, we got to within 30 at the end of Magny-Cours, should’ve been better than that as we had a small problem which contributed to Toprak’s crash in Race 1 and 11th place finish. Bottom line was we nearly got there but then the Barcelona race and Alvaro’s triple followed up Magny-Cours. From there, it became pretty difficult with only a couple to go. Toprak was just outstanding all year. There’s a couple of little things he knows he can do better in terms of how we prepare for the race weekend when things are perhaps not working as well as they should be. We need to continue developing the bike and Yamaha are working very hard in that way and, operationally, there’s a couple of things as a team. When your competitors are that strong, you can’t have any weaknesses, so we need to get rid of those and make a step forward.”

Razgatlioglu’s teammate, Locatelli, embarked on his second season with the factory team and had a rollercoaster season. He scored two podiums, at Assen and Indonesia, on his way to fifth in the Championship standings; his second top-five finish in WorldSBK in his two seasons. Despite a tough middle part of the season, Locatelli responded in the final couple of rounds with six top-five finishes in Indonesia and Australia.

Talking about Locatelli being up against Razgatlioglu, Denning said: “That comparison is difficult for any rider. I genuinely believe it’s like being linked up with Marc Marquez, it’s always going to be very difficult. Good quality riders can be churned out the other end of those relationships. He went through a flat period in the middle of the season where we struggled with a couple of technical things and he struggled with his confidence. We brought something to Indonesia that really helped his level and helped him re-gain his confidence. That showed with his podium performance and a really strong weekend. Fighting with and beating the new World Champion has given him confidence. Following Indonesia and Australia, Loka has a much better base to start his winter testing at.”

Re-live some of Yamaha’s incredible 2022 season using the WorldSBK VideoPass!