Kenan Sofuoglu raised his eyebrows by suggesting that WorldSBK Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu will only be ready to move to MotoGP if he is offered a full Yamaha work contract for his debut.
The five-time WorldSSP champion, who has mentored Razgatlioglu and a handful of aspiring Turkish riders, says the tough conditions for a rider who has yet to test the Yamaha M1 are because he wants to protect his career and emphasize his worth.
“If Yamaha makes us an offer for the factory team, we will think about it,” he is quoted by Speedweek. And only then. We don’t dream of MotoGP, Yamaha knows that too. We won’t be racing for a B team either, but only for the works team. “
The reaction to his comments was met with some cynicism, but are the terms real or is he just playing hard?
Without wanting to evade the question I asked myself, there is “a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B” where Razgatlioglu’s MotoGP negotiations lie.
Sofuoglu is primarily not a shrinking purple. In fact, he’s seen as terrifying off-track as he is on it, and although he clearly played a pivotal role in Razgatlioglu’s burgeoning superstar – one that may give him better chances of doing well where other WorldSBK-to-MotoGP riders have been before Failed – It is quite a charged power play to praise the first tough ball at Yamaha.
After all, Razgatlioglu hasn’t thrown a leg over a MotoGP bike and some fear that the tactics that work in WorldSBK – namely, hard braking – won’t necessarily translate well without a bit of fine-tuning upfront, something he won’t hide when he comes in at Yamaha Blue.
There is a method to madness, however. Negotiations for 2023 are currently taking place across the MotoGP paddock and Sofuoglu doesn’t want Razgatlioglu to take on what is left without reminding the teams of what an inspired commitment he could be.
In addition, Sofuoglu would have to rely on Fabio Quartararo to leave Yamaha as Franco Morbidelli is signed and sealed for 2023. This seemed unlikely a few weeks ago, but now – while it is likely still the case – the numbers have begun to be tossed the other way astray. However, if the choice is between Quartararo and Razgatlioglu, it doesn’t take an expert to determine which rider Yamaha will go for.
Nevertheless, after its countless driver rotation problems in 2021, Yamaha will certainly think intensively about “Plan B” and even if Sofuoglu sends his message in capital letters, Razgatlioglu does not want to lose it to another team.
Regardless of Sofuoglu’s words, it will all be a moot point when Quartararo signs back to Yamaha and Razgatlioglu either waits in the wings for 2024 or accepts a satellite ride.
The point of constantly rejecting RNF Racing makes sense for now as the Malaysian team has clearly lost some finances, support from Yamaha and clout for the next year, but if they can run a tighter ship effectively and Yamaha can guarantee an M1 in all, except for the paintwork, then Razgatlioglu to RNF in 2023 seems to be the more logical result.
In defense of Sofuoglu, he recognizes Razgatlioglu’s quality as a quality racing driver and as a manager he wouldn’t do his job if he didn’t overestimate the skills of his drivers. On top of that, Sofuoglu can aim high – Razgatlioglu seems happy with WorldSBK and would like to stay until the end of 2023 because time is on his side, but he takes a calculated risk that the 25-year-old will do so on an M1 is fast as he is on an R1.
The fact is, Razgatlioglu’s chances of landing the factory Yamaha M1 for 2023 depend on Quartararo’s movements. If he stays, you can choose between an RNF Yamaha for 2023 or wait in the hope that Morbidelli doesn’t live up to expectations before 2024.