A Resurgent Toprak… Ducati Under Attack

After successive championship titles with Ducati, reigning champion Alvaro Bautista seemed untouchable at one point. Everyone remembers the absolutely insane dual between Alvaro and Toprak at Portimao at the end of last season. For me, it was the best race I’ve ever seen and I’ve been watching motorcycle racing for the best part of two decades, through the glorious Valentino Rossi battles with everyone in sight. Toprak gave everything in that race and still came away second best, Bautista onboard the factory Ducati, ultimately prevailing for a second world championship title.

Toprak Razgatlioglu Picture courtesy of ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team

Fast forward to a new season and a highly motivated Toprak, with a point to prove. Toprak may not come across as a rider with a chip on his shoulder, or appear outwardly angry, at least his demeanour seems to be that of the complete professional. However, it wasn’t that long ago where a test with the MotoGP factory Yamaha team didn’t prove to be as impressive as many thought. Certainly Monster Energy Yamaha Team Manager, Massimo Meragalli was very diplomatic when asked about the lap times Toprak had set. Toprak himself, had been open about his desire to move into the MotoGP paddock and no doubt felt disappointed a move never transpired for the 2024 season.

Signing a contract with the Rokit BMW Motorrad Factory team for 2024, many thought the move would be a disaster given the form of the BMW team, with both then factory riders Scott Redding, and Michael Vd Mark struggling to reach consistent form. Toprak’s manager and close friend, Kenan Sofuoglu hinted at the nature of these dismissive comments when being interviewed by Eurosport commentator, James Toseland on the grid for the WorldSSP race on Sunday.

If extra motivation was required, Toprak certainly didn’t look like he needed it over the Misano round. With a first triple win for BMW and a first triple for Toprak since the Indonesian round in 2022, Ducati are now very well aware they’re in a dog fight.

Toprak Razgatlioglu Picture courtesy of ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team

Race 2 saw rookie Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), get an impressive launch off the line securing the hole shot into turn 1. Toprak however, ended up down in 5th. Never one to get ruffled, you always felt the outcome of the race was still well within the grasp of Toprak.

Hunting down Bulega lap by lap, Toprak was beginning to ramp up the pressure, up to 2nd, Toprak was putting in blisteringly fast laps, a fastest lap of 1:33.3 saw him slash the gap to the young Italian ahead. Towards the halfway point of the race Toprak had caught and passed Bulega and didn’t slow down. With 7 laps remaining, Toprak held a lead of 3.5s to Bulega.

The final lap saw Toprak with an unassailable lead of 5s, doing a stoppie across the finish line perfectly summing up what we all love about watching Toprak race. A flawless weekend for Toprak and a marker laid down. If there was any further doubt about his achievement you only had to look further down the field for the rest of the BMW’s. Scott Redding (Bonovo Action BMW) 12th, Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) 18th, and Michael Vd Mark (Rokit Motorrad BMW) with a DNF.

Toprak Razgatlioglu Picture courtesy of ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team

In his post race interview, Toprak said that he was “relaxed and enjoying the bike“, however, saying that chatter was affecting him in the final two corners and improvements could still be made. Toprak leads the championship with 179 points, 21 points clear of Bulega in 2nd, something not been done by a BMW rider for 12 years. Up next, Donington Park, and a favourite track for Toprak, no doubt a rather scary thought for the rest of the field given his recent dominance.

When pressed about the future of Toprak and whether or not he will stay in WorldSBK, Kenan Sofuoglu hinted at a potential move to MotoGP, telling James Toseland “it will happen sooner, rather than later.”

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