A NEW ERA BEGINS: Razgatlioglu’s bold switch to BMW to pay dividends in 2024?

Friday, 16 February 2024 08:42 GMT

Toprak Razgatlioglu’s shock move to BMW paved the way for a series of bombshell transfers in WorldSBK for 2024

The 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship really kicked off with a series of surprising moves, which were all triggered by Toprak Razgatlioglu’s decision to leave Yamaha for the ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team. Opting to leave the team he won the 2021 title with was a surprise as was joining a manufacturer who showed potential but inconsistently, although the final third of the 2023 showed promise heading into this season.

RAZGATLIOGLU’S PRE-BMW STORY: STK600 Champion, Kawasaki wins and Yamaha history maker

The Turkish star made his debut within the WorldSBK paddock with a one-off appearance in 2014 in STK600, before returning for a full campaign in 2015 and claiming the title. Fifth in STK1000 a year later provided the foundation for a title challenge in 2016, finishing eight points behind Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing). He secured a WorldSBK debut in 2018 and took two podiums, before a first win came in 2019 with the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing outfit. A switch to the factory Yamaha team for 2020 secured fourth in the standings, starting and ending his season with wins, before beating then Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea to the title in 2021. Race wins and podiums continued throughout 2022 and 2023 but he was unable to beat Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) to the title in either year.

ADAPTING TO THE M 1000 RR: Razgatlioglu’s testing programme

27-year-old Razgatlioglu got his first taste on the M 1000 RR in early December when at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, although rain disrupted this plan. A trip to Jerez overnight for two more days of testing was again disrupted by the weather, before BMW opted for a late change of plans and travelled from Jerez to Valencia. A bit of a break followed before the paddock headed to Jerez and Portimao together the final European tests before the start of the season in Australia.

POSITIVE VIBES: Razgatlioglu rapid in testing

The only two tests Razgatlioglu was with his rivals were in January 2024 at Jerez and Portimao, but there were good signs from those tests when alongside his competitors. At the Spanish venue, Razgatlioglu was fourth on Day 2 before he topped the times at Portimao ahead of Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati), potentially setting up a brand new rivalry between the pair heading into 2024. All signs point to BMW benefitting from Razgatlioglu’s arrival, with the three other BMW riders – teammate Michael van der Mark and Bonovo Action BMW’s Garrett Gerloff and Scott Redding – also fast in testing.

RAZGATLIOGLU’S THOUGHTS: “my first goal is to get the first win with BMW”

Discussing how he thought his 2024 campaign would play out, Razgatlioglu said: “The feeling with the project is very good. Testing is very positive. We are not 100% ready but every day we are getting closer. In general, the bike isn’t bad. Every day, we are improving, and this is important. I’m very excited for the first race. It’s not easy to say whether can fight for the title in 2024. If we improve the bike, we will fight for the Championship. My first goal is to get the first win with BMW. We’re not so far away, I feel. I just need more time to understand and improve the bike, especially the setup. I hope we improve it and find the setup before racing.”

WHAT DO BMW THINK? “the target is at least a win…”

Speaking on Day 2 of the Portimao test, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director Marc Bongers the goals for 2024. He said: “Australia and Barcelona, in terms of results and grip and track position, are a bit of the odd ones out. Since we could carry the setup from Jerez to Portimao and it immediately worked, so we are convinced we have a good base package. I go to Australia with a lot of optimism. For sure, we need to get back to the podium. We have several in 2022 and had a hard year in 2023. The target is at least a win, but I would imagine we would see several podiums.”

A NEW ERA BEGINS: follow Razgatlioglu’s first BMW season in style using the WorldSBK VideoPass!