Rookie Locatelli makes WorldSBK debut as van der Mark tries BMW for size

Andrea Locatelli gets his first outing on the Pata Yamaha in the post-finale WorldSBK test in Estioril, while Michael van der Mark completes first day in BMW colours

Andrea Locatelli, Michael van der Mark, Michael Ruben Rinaldi

Dominant WorldSSP Champion Andrea Locatelli officially marked his first day as Yamaha’s factory Pata Yamaha rider for the 2021 WorldSBK Championship by turning heads during the customary post-finale test at Estoril.

As well as Locatelli, the test day was also a chance for the rider he is replacing at Yamaha - Michael van der Mark - to get his first impressions of the BMW package, while Michael Ruben Rinaldi sidestepped from Go Eleven Ducati to the factory Ducati team.

For Locatelli though it would be a day to remember, his racing career taking a sharp upturn in less than 12 months having been lured away from a solid, if unspectacular tenure in Moto2 to defend the WorldSSP title BARDAHL Evan Bros. Yamaha clinched with Randy Krummenacher in 2019.

The Italian would go on to do that and more this year, setting the tone with a runaway win on his debut in Australia before reeling off a total of nine in a row to earn him the 2020 WorldSSP before he’d even lost a race victory this season. He’d eventually end the season with 12 wins, a 104 point lead and the reward of a factory Yamaha R1 he’ll race alongside Toprak Razgatlioglu in 2021.

On a rain affected day, Locatelli turned in a best time of 1m 38.770s, just over two seconds adrift of Alex Lowes’ session-topping effort of 1m 36.581s.

Meanwhile, van der Mark threw his leg over a BMW for the first time as he got the chance to sample the S 1000 RR for a hint of what to expect when the brand-new BMW M 1000 RR is ready to ride in the coming weeks and months. The Dutchman, whose new deal brings a four-year term at Yamaha to a conclusion, he will be joined next season by Tom Sykes and takes over from Eugene Laverty.

Announced on the eve of the 2021 WorldSBK finale, Rinaldi went ‘full red’ for the first time in readiness for his season as the Ducati factory rider alongside Scott Redding, which in turn upgrades him to an on-spec Panigale V4 R for the first time.