With MotoGP taking a weekend off, much of the world’s two-wheeled attention was on the Estoril WorldSBK event, where reigning champion and potential 2023 MotoGP rider Toprak Razgatlioglu narrowly lost out to Jonathan Rea and Alvaro Bautista during three breathtaking races.
“Yamaha would be mad to overlook Toprak for MotoGP next year,” said former British champion and grand prix rider Huewen.
“World Superbike is very watchable again because of Toprak, Jonathan Rea and lately Alvaro Bautista. That first race at Estoril between Toprak and Jonathan was just incredible – they were throwing motorbikes at each other! I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
“It was stunningly skilful stuff. You would have called it reckless I think in the past, but because it was those two it was just brilliant to watch. The hairs are standing up on my arm while I’m talking about it!
“It really was something a little bit special and Toprak is special. So is Jonathan, but Jonathan is of an age where unfortunately – I still rue the day Honda didn’t do what they should have done and given Jonathan Rea a factory Honda.
“But Razgatlioglu’s definitely going to MotoGP. I’m absolutely convinced. I can’t believe that he won’t have a top MotoGP ride in 2022.
“Money is the big problem for everyone at the moment and maybe having a couple of factory Suzuki blokes in the mix means there is a ‘sale on’.
“But Kenan Sofuoglu, Toprak’s manager and five times World Supersport champion, knows the market really well. I can see Kenan being a really tough negotiator and Yamaha, well, what other choices do they have?
“Dovi won’t be staying the way things have gone. If Morbidelli doesn’t start performing, might he be in danger of going the same way? Meanwhile, you’ve got Razgatlioglu waiting in the wings in World Superbike.
“Mugello is traditionally the kind of weekend where some future rider announcements are made. But another knock-on of the Suzuki situation is that, if I was in team management, I’d say ‘hang on, there are still plenty of good riders available, let’s wait a bit longer and see how things play out’.”
Top rack on a MotoGP bike? ‘He’s going to love it!’
Razgatlioglu is expected to try a Yamaha M1 next month, presumably with the factory test team and therefore alongside Cal Crutchlow.
The Englishman is the most successful WorldSBK rider to make the MotoGP move in the four-stroke era, courtesy of his three race wins, and so would be the perfect rider to offer initial advice and guidance to Razgatlioglu.
But will Razgatlioglu’s style suit a MotoGP bike?
“It’s funny how manufacturers have this kind of DNA in the way that they make motorbikes, whether it’s the production bike through to the factory MotoGP bike,” Huewen said. “A friend of mine bought a Ducati for a track day bike recently and said, ‘it doesn’t steer very well’ compared with his Yamaha.
“Remember Valentino as well as the present Yamaha MotoGP riders all use R1’s for training and track days. So what I’m saying is the DNA of the bike Toprak is used to in WorldSBK will still be there. I think Toprak will get on the MotoGP bike and he’s going to love it!
“But Yamaha has still got to pick up the pace on the technical side for 2023.
“Kenan balked at the idea of Toprak coming across to a satellite team this year, and with hindsight it would have been a bad time for Toprak to come across. But 2023 might be the perfect time.”
Assuming all goes well at the MotoGP test, where might Razgatlioglu be placed by Yamaha in 2023?
Franco Morbidelli is the only rider currently under contract for Yamaha in MotoGP next year, but the factory is openly confident that team-mate and reigning champion Fabio Quartararo will remain.
That would leave Razgatlioglu with only a satellite M1 option (on a factory-spec bike), but that also depends on the RNF team reaching an agreement to extend its current one-year deal with Yamaha…
Podcast host Harry Benjamin then puts a listener question on KTM’s current MotoGP situation and reliance on Brad Binder to Huewen and Crash.net MotoGP editor Pete McLaren, before attention turns to the latest rider market rumours.
“I think Aprilia and Aleix Espargaro are going to come to a deal,” McLaren said. “I think they’re going through the normal motions at the moment. One side says they want this amount of money, the other side says we haven’t got it and eventually they meet in the middle.
“For me, it will only get serious if Aprilia signs another rider before Aleix. As we saw with Ducati and Dovi a few years back. Then you’ll know there is a real problem going on with the negotiations.
“There was also the joke video [above] put out by Aprilia, with Aleix turning a contract down and Aprilia signing Fernando Alonso! It was just a bit of fun, but you wouldn’t put that out if there really was a serious ‘wall’ between them in the contract negotiations.”
Paint it red: ‘Ducati should become Bastianini’s title sponsor’
The podcast trio then reflect on some memorable Valentino Rossi moments at Mugello, ahead of the retirement of his #46, before making their predictions for this weekend’s race.
“I think it could be Bastianini vs Bagnaia again,” said McLaren. “Speaking of which, when is someone going to sponsor Bastianini’s bike? Three wins, eight points off the championship lead and still no title sponsor.
“If I was Ducati I’d step in while there’s still time, do a deal and get Bastianini’s bike and leathers in factory red for the remaining rounds. Bastianini is already contracted to Ducati so why not effectively become his title sponsor? He certainly deserves it.
“Red means Ducati in MotoGP, but in Austin and Le Mans we saw a ‘blue bike’ snatch victory from the ‘red bike’.
“If it had been a red Ducati against a red Ducati, even if they are different spec, it would look so much better for marketing purposes – especially if Bastianini goes on to win the world championship…”
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