April 19 2023
After more than six weeks since 2023’s second race event on the Indonesian island of Lombok, Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and Andrea Locatelli are more than ready to take on the third round of the FIM Superbike World Championship held at the “Cathedral of Speed” TT Circuit Assen as the series starts its 2023 European odyssey.
One of the most recognisable circuits on the WorldSBK calendar, the Dutch track is well-known for the “flip-flop” chicane onto the main straight that has seen so many spectacular last lap battles in its 30-year history as part of the series.
Razgatlıoğlu and Locatelli are certainly familiar with the layout, having both ridden here in their formative years – and the regular April date means riders and the Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK squad are prepared to be ready for all weather conditions – from icy rain to warm spring sunshine.
Crew Chief for the #55 Yamaha R1 WorldSBK and its pilot Andrea Locatelli, Andrew Pitt is intimately acquainted with Assen himself as a race-winning rider and now in his senior technical role. Pitt says the keys to perform include tyre choice for the abrasive surface along with a bike set-up that is stable at high speeds and able to change direction. He expects the latest 2023 Yamaha R1 WorldSBK race machine set-up used in Mandalika to also work well in Assen, shored up with a solid Assen base setting that saw “Loka” step onto the podium in both 2021 and 2022.
Teammate Razgatlıoğlu is no stranger to the Assen podium either, with four top-three results at the Dutch venue since he joined Yamaha, but a race win in the premier category has so far proven elusive. The team, and Yamaha’s engineers, will do everything they can to change the stats sheet for both riders from Free Practice 1 starting on Friday morning at 10:30 local time (CEST) and the second, 45-minute Free Practice 2 at 15:00.
“It has been a long break after Mandalika and the Barcelona test, I am happy to be back again for Assen! Last year was a bit unlucky, but like always I just try my best, enjoy the race and focus on my job. We need to close the gap to Alvaro but I am not looking at this, just try to fight for the win and we will see what is possible. The test in Barcelona was not so easy, but there was some good points with the electronics – we are always learning, my team are working to improve my R1 and I hope we can take a step in Assen.”
“After the test in Barcelona, we have more experience with this year’s R1 and we did a lot of work to evaluate further new parts. It was not easy but it was important to return on the bike and ride to continue development. Now, we will see what happens in Assen. In the past it was interesting here! We were fast in 2021 and 2022, I had my first podium in WorldSBK and last year we finished on the podium again with P2. The target is to continue to improve and try to get more podiums like the start of the season. I know the track very well, because I have been riding many years in Assen, also with Moto2 and Moto3. It’s a flowing track, a fast track and I like this type of layout – normally the R1 also works really well so I think we have something to be competitive and we will try to get the maximum results that we can.”
Paul Denning – Team Principal, Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK:
“Phillip Island and Mandalika were together our best ever start to a WorldSBK season, with either one or both of our riders on the podium in every single race – and outstanding qualifying results. But this is WorldSBK, and with three races every weekend we know anything can happen, which is why we always need to be at the top of our game. The recent test in Barcelona was tricky to be honest, but Yamaha’s engineers and the team came away with a wealth of information to keep pushing the development of the R1 forward. We have a great, balanced package which suits circuits like Assen that are both fast and flowing. Through misfortune, Toprak hasn’t quite been able to win here but we will be doing everything we can to give him a package that can allow him to fight for a Dutch victory this time out. “Loka” should also not be forgotten as he has a lot of experience at this circuit and showed what he is capable of even in his first season as a rookie, taking his debut podium in the WorldSBK category in 2021 and backing it up with a superb second-place finish in 2022. Whatever happens, we are looking forward to returning to the race track after the extended break, and to welcoming more partners and fans to enjoy the European leg of the season, starting this weekend.”