Yamaha Motor Europe have confirmed that the reigning FIM Supersport World Champion Andrea Locatelli will join Toprak Razgatlıoğlu at the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team for the 2021 WSBK campaign.
Garrett Gerloff remains with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for 2021, where he will be joined by Japanese ace Kohta Nozane, meaning that Yamaha will field one of the youngest rider line-ups in the championship.
Locatelli has enjoyed a stellar maiden WorldSSP season with the Evan Bros Yamaha WorldSSP Supported Team, scoring a record-breaking 11 victories that saw him seal the title with two rounds to spare in Barcelona. Prior to this year’s success, the 23-year-old Italian arrives with six years of Grand Prix experience, in which he took a pair of podium finishes in the 2016 Moto3 championship.
On his WorldSSP debut, Locatelli scored a victory at Phillip Island and continued to make waves after the season resumed, winning the next eight races in a row and taking his pole position tally to six, while last time out in Magny-Cours he broke another record, this time for most points scored in a single season. For 2021 the Italian will step up to the Pata Yamaha squad to partner Phillip Island race-winner Razgatlıoğlu, who remains in contention for third in the standings ahead of the Estoril finale.
Andrea Locatelli – Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team
“I’m very proud and thankful to start this new adventure with Yamaha, it’s an important step for me after a great first year in the WorldSBK paddock. Thanks to Eric de Seynes, President of Yamaha Europe, Road Racing Manager Andrea Dosoli and Pata Yamaha Team Principal Paul Denning for trusting in me. I’m very excited to start working with the new team and my new crew chief Andrew Pitt, he’s a two-time world champion and has done a great job with Pata Yamaha. I’m also really looking forward to getting testing started, it’ll be the first time riding the Yamaha R1 for me and I can’t wait to get my preparations for the 2021 season underway.”
Gerloff joined the WorldSBK championship from an impressive stint in the United States, in which he was crowned the MotoAmerica Supersport champion in both 2016 and 2017 and scored four victories on his way to third place in the 2019 MotoAmerica Superbike standings. The American has impressed with his quick adaptation to the WorldSBK championship and has been fully integrated into the GRT Yamaha squad, which for 2021 will be running the latest-spec Yamaha R1 machinery, identical to the Pata Yamaha bikes.
Throughout 2020, the 25-year-old continued to improve and claimed a breakthrough podium with a scintillating performance in Barcelona WorldSBK Race 2, while he also showed race-winning potential in the opening race at a wet Magny-Cours on his first visit to the circuit. After a debut season disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, remaining with GRT Yamaha for 2021 will provide Gerloff with the stability and familiarity that will be all-important as he gains experience at circuits he’s yet to race at.
Garrett Gerloff – GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team
“I’m just super excited to be staying with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for the 2021 season. This year has been incredible; the people I work with on the team are exceptional, really positive and awesome people, so to be able to continue with them is fantastic. It’s going to be nice to hopefully have more of a normal year and to have some consistency in the team will be great for me. I’m really excited to be getting the new Yamaha R1 as well. Hopefully it will give us even more performance to take the fight to the current frontrunners in the championship. Thank you so much to Yamaha for continuing with me and giving me another opportunity to improve and show what I can do. I owe them and my team manager Filippo Conti everything. I think that we can do some great things next year and I’m more focused and determined than ever.”
The American will be joined at the GRT Yamaha team by 2020 MFJ All-Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship leader Nozane, who will make his debut in the WorldSBK championship next year. The Japanese rider was the 2013 J-GP2 Class champion with Yamaha and is a multiple race-winner in the competitive JSB1000 series.
This year, Nozane leads the championship having won every race so far, with just two double-header rounds remaining. Alongside his national experience, the 25-year-old has also contested the FIM Endurance World Championship with the Yamalube YART Yamaha EWC Official Team and boasts a MotoGP outing with Yamaha in the 2017 Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.
Kohta Nozane – GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team
“I’ve felt WorldSBK would be the best place for me to keep growing as a rider, so I’m really happy to get a chance to race on the world stage again and I can’t thank Yamaha enough for the opportunity. I’ll be up against the best riders in the world on tyres different to what I use now, and almost all the circuits will be totally new to me, so I know it’s going to be a massive challenge. But, I take pride in being one of Japan’s top riders, so to live up to the expectations of Japanese fans as well as gain the respect of race fans around the world, I want to make my mark right from the start, so I’ll be doing all I can to be ready to race. I’ll be joining the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team and Garrett Gerloff has finished on the podium with them in his rookie season, so I know they’re strong and I can’t wait to work and grow with them next year. We’re in the middle of this year’s All Japan Road Race Championship and I’m leading in the points, so the goal is to come into WorldSBK as the All Japan JSB1000 Champion. My focus from here is on doing my best in the last two rounds of the season to take the title.”
Andrea Dosoli – Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“Yamaha Motor Europe is very excited to introduce this young and exciting rider line-up for the 2021 WorldSBK season. Obviously, this year we bid farewell to Michael van der Mark, who has made a significant contribution to Yamaha’s WorldSBK program since joining us in 2017 and whom we wish all the best for the future. Replacing him we have a promising young talent in Andrea Locatelli, who was already a part of the Yamaha family. What he’s achieved in WorldSSP this year is incredible and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can achieve alongside Toprak Razgatlıoğlu in the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team next year. For Garrett Gerloff it was important to offer some stability after a debut WorldSBK season disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, which is why he will remain with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team for 2021. He has shown this year that he’s capable of fighting at the front, even at tracks he’s not familiar with, so we’re excited to see what he can do next season on the 2021 specification Yamaha R1 and with a strong team behind him. We’re also delighted to welcome Kohta Nozane, who’s been the standout rider in the All Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship this year, to the WorldSBK paddock. It’s important for both the series and for Yamaha to have a fast Japanese rider racing on the world stage and it means we’ll have the exciting prospect of having four riders representing three different continents on the 2021 WorldSBK grid.”