Phil Marron: "The way Toprak developed over 2019 was impressive"

Friday, 6 December 2019 13:12 GMT

Razgatlioglu’s crew chief opens up on twelve months working together, including their first steps in blue

Many questions remain unresolved after the first two pre-season tests of the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, with several more set to stay that way until the first race of the season. We do have an early answer to one, however: whether Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) can adapt to the demands of the YZF R1.

That answer, if ever in doubt, is a resounding yes. The Turkish rider, already top Yamaha on day two in Aragon, finished just 0.019 seconds off Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) fastest time on the first day of Jerez testing.

The fact that Razgatlioglu, even then, did not seem overtly pleased with his results reflects the continuous change that has shaped his 2019: struggling to find his feet early on, then a steady slew of podiums, before finally breaking his WorldSBK duck with two spectacular wins in France.

By his side the whole time – and now also a part of the Pata Yamaha project – was crew chief Phil Marron, former right-hand man to Eugene Laverty, Sam Lowes and others. Many would point to the man from Moneyglass, Northern Ireland, as a chief reason behind Razgatlioglu’s growth last season. Yet, speaking at the end of the first day of Jerez 2020 testing, Marron would argue otherwise.

“To see him develop over the year, with his comments, feedback and understanding of what the bike’s doing below him, was impressive. That’s where we made the most gains, the most headway. He was able to explain clearly as the season progressed what he was feeling. With his comments we were able to get a setting for him, not quickly but eventually we got it for him.

“He’s young, but he’s got a lot of mileage under his belt. In Superbike terms he’s inexperienced, but riding a bike, he’s being doing that since he could walk. He knows what he’s doing.”

Good communication and clarity have been key to their success together and is something they will be looking to transfer over to the Crescent Racing crew, particularly considering how differently the YZF R1 and ZX-10RR handle.

“There’s a lot of good engineers in the team and they’re starting to understand his comments. Every rider says one thing but knowing exactly what that one thing means makes the difference. Every area they need to understand his exact comment.”

So far, so good: “We’re starting to get an idea of what he needs, what he wants. It’s still very early days, but so far, he’s got a good feeling with the bike. The feedback with the Q tyre has been good, which is something we didn’t have last year, so it looks pretty good.

“We’re still trying to find the correct balance of the bike to suit him. We’ve got the information from all the other Yamaha riders, but his requests, while not completely alien, are slightly different. Although we see him with the rear in the air quite a bit, he doesn’t like that, he likes the bike to stop quite efficiently. At the moment we haven’t got that, so we need to find the right balance, geometry-wise.”

2020 will be Razgatlioglu’s sixth full season in the paddock (one in STK600, two in STK1000 and since 2018 in WorldSBK), yet he won’t turn 24 until five days after the season ends. Having already achieved more than most riders do in a career, setting a realistic goal for the Turk is nigh-on impossible – as is reigning in his own ambition.

“In 2019 we achieved more than we thought we were going to achieve, honestly, when we started out. We knew the potential was there, but we didn’t expect to do just as good as we did do, with podium after podium after podium.

“But you can’t really base it [2020 goals] on his results here, because it is only testing. This morning he said he needed to do a 1’40 lap time; I said “no, we need to do a 1’39!”. He’s like “really?”; then at the end of the session he says: “I need to do a 1’38”. You’ve just moved your goalposts very quickly over the space of one day!

“We need him to keep his feet on the ground, we won’t set our goal just yet. We need to understand the full potential of the package and his potential on the package before saying what we want, but everybody in pit-lane wants the same thing – we don’t need to spell it out!”

Get all the reactions and highlights from the MotorLand Aragon and Jerez tests thanks to WorldSBK VideoPass!