Muir on 2024 goals: "When Toprak believes he can win the title, we believe he can as well."

Friday, 19 April 2024 09:24 GMT

The BMW Team Principal spoke about how BMW’s made a step outside of rider line-up changes, the atmosphere and the potential in 2024…

BMW have been one of the stories of the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship thanks to a huge step in terms of their results, taking three podiums and two wins in the first two rounds with Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), while teammate Michael van der Mark has also shown good pace including a fourth place in Race 2 in Barcelona. Speaking to WorldSBK Commentator Steve English, Team Principal Shaun Muir explained how the team and manufacturer have taken a big step, the relationship between Razgatlioglu and van der Mark and Championship hopes in 2024.

MAKING THE STEP: “He confirmed that we were on the right path”

The big change was Razgatlioglu’s arrival, with the #54 first jumping on the bike at Portimao in December, but there were other changes too. Discussing this, Muir said: “Honestly speaking, we’ve got to the position where we were very close to making that step. I think over the winter period, we brought some revisions but not ground-breaking changes that people all anticipated to make that big change. It was simply consolidating a setup that we knew worked from our experience over the last years. Setting the base and then Toprak joining the team and starting on that base, and what that did was confirm to us that we were on the right path. It also started to deter us from taking what the riders were requesting which is a different setup from the one we know is going to be best for long-race conditions. It just stabilised everything.

“Michael’s coming back off injuries and his fitness is now coming back, working with Toprak again which brought a new feeling in the team completely in terms of a real balance in the box. I’m not speaking derogatory of any other rider we’ve had in the past, it just seemed to be that things just clicked in a lot of areas where we were struggling a little bit before. Operationally, from my side and SMR, we’ve made some fine revisions, bringing Phil on board was great because he worked with me in the Aprilia days anyway, so I had some success with him and Eugene. His character suited what we were looking for and just one or two changes in the group, but generally it’s the same group I’ve had for the last couple of years except we’re getting some results. I can’t put my finger on one thing that’s made the difference, everything’s just settled down.”

THE GOALS: “What I feel now is like the start of 2011 and 2015, when we were in our British-championship winning years…”

Muir has won titles domestically with his eponymous Shaun Muir Racing outfit and is hoping he can replicate that on the world stage, with Razgatlioglu and his manager, Kenan Sofuoglu, speaking about the title in recent weeks. Muir added: “British superbike was a stepping stone. We’ve done it, we’ve run our course. I think we did fantastic in that championship. We did what was right at that time and that was to step to WorldSBK. Moving on through the ranks here, the Aprilia years were really good for us. We’ve been here a long time now, we’ve done the hard miles again and I do feel that our experience of understanding the travel, the circuit, the environment, what you’ve got to deal with has come through all those years of experience.

“I feel, overall, in this Championship, getting the combination and what I feel now is like the start of 2011 and 2015 when we were in our championship winning years, I have a similar feeling to this year now as well. Everything clicks. You know when things are right. You don’t have dramas, there’s an ambience in the team and there’s a spirit and the knowhow behind from the factory to think we’re on the right path and I do believe moving on with Toprak, we have two years of him, we’re only two rounds in and here we are talking about the World Championship. But Toprak’s talking about it. If anyone knows he can win the World Championship, it’s the man sitting on the bike. When he believes he can, we believe he can as well.”

ATMOSPHERE IN THE BOX: Razgatlioglu and van der Mark working together

When he was at Yamaha, the #54 often worked with then-teammate Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) in Tissot Superpole and that’s something he’s replicated with van der Mark – who he raced with at Yamaha in 2020 – at BMW, with Razgatlioglu giving the #60 advice during the Barcelona Superpole session. On the atmosphere at the team and Razgatlioglu giving advice mid-session, Muir said: “I’ve got to say, I’ve never had that in this team from the get-go, even with Markus and Tom, and then Eugene and Tom and Michael and Scott, we’ve never had that environment. We knew something had to change. It was frustrating. Those frustrations in the box are borne out of no results. When you’re really grinding away and you’re doing your best and that’s only a tenth or whatever, it really is soul searching. You’ve got to dig deep to another level there and it affects everybody, from the top to the bottom. We all feel that. Clearly, the environment gets affected by that, you’re trying to search for something, the riders are running off in different directions trying to search for something that’s probably not there. We know what that base is now.

“Immediately, when Toprak joined, I don’t want to use the words in awe, but we were just super impressed with the calmness but at the same time, we’re trying to understand that character as well. We know Mickey inside out. We’ve been sat by his bed in hospital at the worst times and we’ve been on the podium at Portimao and had good times. We understand what Michael’s like, but Toprak, no. He was a completely blank piece of paper to us. We only saw what the public saw and the paddock saw. We were just impressed by him being a straightforward good human being, feelings like everyone else, ambition like no one else. It just seems to mix really well. I’m sure Yamaha had that for years before and Manuel when he had him at Puccetti so we’re getting the benefits of that now. Long may it continue.”

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