What motivates a rider? Winning championships, winning races, and making money are three big factors that go into the decision-making process. The news that Toprak Razgatlioglu will leave Yamaha at the end of this season has left more questions than answers about what motivates the Turkish star.
The paddock rumour mill in Catalunya centred on a proposed move to BMW. It’s fairly sure that there will be more than a million reasons why he chose the German manufacturer. Toprak is a unique rider in many ways. His motivation has always been to be a Superbike star, and while he has recently flirted with the prospect of a move to the MotoGP class, the chances of that are limited.
His Yamaha MotoGP test didn’t go as well as he had hoped. Arriving to Jerez to find a bike that, rumour has it, didn’t quite fit his frame left him feeling that the chips were falling against a move to the premier class. That test could have proved crucial to Toprak deciding to leave Yamaha. Having seen that the Japanese manufacturer didn’t back him to the hilt he might have felt slighted. That’s the feeling that led him to leave Kawasaki in 2019 to switch to the blue bikes.
The Suzuka decision
It’s often cited that the decision to move to Yamaha came as a result of Kawasaki choosing not to race him at the Suzuka 8 Hours. The real reason though came earlier than that. He was uncertain about Kawasaki from his first Suzuka test and the feeling that he would never be more than Jonathan Rea’s back-up. It’s for this reason that a return to the green machine is very unlikely.
Switching to Yamaha was a risk. The 2021 WorldSBK title, 31 race victories and 78 podiums proved that Toprak was correct to back his talent above all else. Leaving Yamaha comes with risk. Toprak will back his talent above all else but now the question becomes what does the future hold?
Switching to BMW and the M1000RR leaves Toprak on a bike that has underperformed compared to expectations. The bike has won one race, with Michael van der Mark in a damp Portimão Superpole Race, but it has clear potential. Van der Mark has spoken throughout the winter about improvements that the team has made with the bike. The package is more complete now but braking stability and corner entry has been their biggest weakness in the past. Toprak, the ultimate front end master, would have to adapt the bike to his whims. It’s easy to forget that in 2019 this was a question asked when he signed for Yamaha...
Moving to BMW creates a fork in the road for Razgatlioglu. Has he left Yamaha because he feels that the chances of beating Alvaro Bautista on the Ducati are stacked too far against him? Has he left for money? Has he left for a new challenge to join a select band of five riders to win for at least three different manufacturers?
Now the question shifts to what happens within the garage. Will Toprak bring his crew chief Phil Marron along with him? You’d imagine that BMW will accept almost any demand from Razgatlioglu and given the relationship with Marron it would make sense to bring him over. The duo have been incredibly successful and the engineer will also know how difficult it is to win if you don’t have the right rider. But leaving Yamaha would come with a cost for Marron and it might be a cost he isn’t willing to pay.
Winning won’t be easy. Toprak is arguably the most talented rider in WorldSBK but the depth of field is so strong now that the talent difference between Toprak and Van der Mark and Scott Redding isn’t massive. It will be the persona of Toprak and the need to make the situation work that will lead to success. As a former World Champion he will galvanise the team and the manufacturer, but don’t expect Toprak to be the sole reason if BMW can win consistently; they need to adapt and make changes to their structures.
What next for YME?
Yamaha will face a question mark about what to do going forward. Do they move Dominique Aegerter up to the factory seat? Do they look to the MotoGP paddock and make a splash with a move for Fabio Di Giannantonio - the Italian has been linked with a switch to Ducati in WorldSBK. Or do they look for a rider like Sam Lowes to make the switch having been a Yamaha Supersport champion in the past?
Toprak was always going to the rider that would dictate the moves in the WorldSBK paddock this year. Would it be a move to MotoGP? Would he stay at Yamaha? Would he take a punt and try something different. He’s gone with the last option, and the only certainty is that when he rolls out of a pit garage on a BMW M1000RR all eyes will be on him. Now he has to deliver on the bike, otherwise the gamble is a folly.
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I'm going to miss seeing…
I'm going to miss seeing Toprak in Parc Ferme. Hopefully after his BMW misadventure he can find a ride on a winning bike again.
or he just simply went to…
or he just simply went to BMW because they paid him materially more than Yamaha. I think he knows that no one can beat Bautista so why not not win and be rich? once Bautista retires he can reassess his options whilst having a fatter bank account.
In reply to or he just simply went to… by bduke01
I believe that’s called a …
I believe that’s called a “business decision.” Definitely the right move with a championship already in his back pocket.
or is this a reflection of…
or is this a reflection of the fact that he thinks that Yamaha are not committed to continuing investing in the R1 whilst BMW is?
Yamaha really can’t do…
Yamaha really can’t do anything right. Probably won’t be racing WSBK or MotoGP two years from now.
Interesting stuff. Fair…
Interesting stuff. Fair play to him for the move. You suspect there is a money element in the move but also i wonder if hes thinking they have more engine than Yamaha and with the arrogance of any top tier rider hes thinking he can achieve what others can't!
Is that VDM or Redding gone then? Sites have been saying Redding but if i was BMW i would pay VDM off. The fellas bones seem to be made of glass. If they get rid of Redding i hope he doesn't go to Yamaha, he might get nearer the front on a better bike but then we would have to listen tomore coverage of him moaning about Bautistas weight, nobody wants that.
On Yamaha i would love to see Morbidelli. Take a punt on a lad from moto2 and move Mobidelli across. Unfortunately i think FM gets to keep his ride for another year, mainly on the basis that no established rider wants to go near a yam in GP (unless its for buckets of cash i suspect).locattelli is consistent but not near the level of the main 3. Really interested to see what Yam do here.
Color me surprised
I didn't see that one coming. I thought for sure that this move had Honda written all over it.
I wish him well, and I hope that BMW are ready to invest mightily in this series. Because they're going to need to in order for this to not be career suicide on Toprak's part.
Finally, a fun move
Well now I'm impatient for next season already, just to see how this plays out.
Good luck Toprak
Wow! I can see why Razgatlioglu left Yamaha. Not sure why he went to BMW. Hoping this means the German manufacturer will be taking another step soon. It needs to be a big step forward to satisfy the young Turk's ambition.
I'm hoping that this new partnership will be good for Toprak, BMW and SBK.
We will see. How long until Misano? Will BMW do better in the remainder of this season?
I had a brief chat at…
I had a brief chat at Phillip Island with an unhappy Scott Redding and when I asked whether BMW was putting heaps of money into the project, he said that was an illusion. I am surprised that Toprak is moving to the poorest performing bike in the paddock and I will also be surprised if he gets even one win on it in 2024. I would like to see Frankie Morbidelli take his seat in WSBK as he clearly has no future in MotoGP.
From 'the guy is special', …
From 'the guy is special', 'must move to MotoGP', 'is destined for greatness' and 'has everything needed to be at the front in MotoGP' to 'doesn't stand a chance because of the bike'. Oh what a difference one Ducati makes.
Throw your toys out the pram!
It looks to me that maybe he was a little bit overconfident in his negotiating position. Maybe he thought a MotoGP seat was a no-brainer, but apparently Yamaha was not impressed with his M1 tests. I've always felt that his style would not translate well to a MotoGP bike, but what do I know (seriously)? Maybe it was some other reason. But whatever, this has the appearance of Toprak not being offered a spot in the Yamaha MotoGP team, and his response is to cut ties with Yamaha and try his luck somewhere else. The only other option was BMW, so...
In reply to Throw your toys out the pram! by Keene Machine
His tests with Crutchlow weren't that outstanding. Sofuoglu (his mentor/coach/guru/Svengali) has always had a dislike for the GP classes ever since his own failure there. My thought is that Top Cat and Sofuoglu are looking for the maximum $$$ from superbike and are happy to stay there. And who knows? If BMW coughs up enough effort to justify his (no doubt) huge salary things may work out for him.
In reply to Throw your toys out the pram! by Keene Machine
I think he would have had a…
I think he would have had a mountain to climb just to show well against Fabio and maybe even Franco. Fabio has a mountain to climb every weekend. Franco went from hero in 2020 to zero by the end of 2022. Give Toprak two bad years and he'd be there too. Last year Toprak wasn't far off double the points of the next Yamaha. We will see what difference a rider can make next year. MotoGP was more than likely only a chance to kick himself in the teeth.
Perhaps it was option 4...
...that it's all that politico Kenan's fault. :P
I'm excited to see what he…
I'm excited to see what he can achieve on the Beemer. At least they'll know for sure it's not the rider. Steve's cryptic reference to BMW needing to make "structural changes" is interesting - it'd be nice to have some more information here. Clearly there are some issues with that manufacturer and they've had top riders on the bikes before with not a lot to show for it, so will this work? Who knows but it'll be worth watching.
Yamaha vs. BMW
I've never been a big Garrett Gerloff fan, but this interview with him in Cycle News (U.S.) this week sheds some light on the big differences between the two bikes, since he just made the switch this season:
In reply to Yamaha vs. BMW by St. Stephen
Thx for the link !
Thx for the link !
I didn’t see this coming. I…
I didn’t see this coming. I wasn’t too surprised at how circumspect Yamaha MotoGP have been. As far as I know, no-one has ever come from WSBK into MotoGP and been a serious contender for a title and, with the greatest respect, I don’t see Toprak as being a cut above those who’ve gone before. Nor, for that matter, better than Frankie or Fabio. He’s quite brilliant of course, but so are most of the MotoGP grid these days.
Anyway… BMW? Blimey. I’m guessing that this is a highly calculated move. If he’s hugely lucky, it turns out to be a race winning bike. If not, he earns some seriously good money for the next couple of years and then hops over to Ducati or Kawasaki, where wins are guaranteed.
It would be nice to see BMW at the front more regularly, so I really hope it works out for him. History doesn't inspire confidence though, it seems a serially under-performing bike with a rather nasty character (ask VdM).
As for his MotoGP aspirations, I always thought Yamaha would have been a bad fit for his riding style anyway, worse still right now with their lack of direction and development. I thought with the red bull tie in he could have fishtailed his way over to KTM and made a nice fit. Sadly like Rea in 2012, this was probably it and he'll just remain one of those great 'what-ifs' of history. I for one feel that he has some of that 'x-factor' ability of doing things on a bike that others simply can't fathom. If he got the right breaks and support at the right time, I think he could have made it.
World Superbike has many moving parts, but I'm not convinced BMW can return to competitiveness under the current ruleset. Alvaro doesn't have any peers at the moment, and Toprak's change actually provides a bit of intrigue for next year, but after that? The Yamaha is not a bad bike, and Ducati may not be able to replace Bautista with an equally small and equally talented rider. Rea is getting old. Toprak would be the odds-on favorite for 2025 aboard a Yamaha, but now?
Maybe BMW feel the same way, and they want the odds to be in their favor when Bautista leaves. Toprak will need at least 1 season to adjust to the bike, and make it his own.
The future is unclear, but right now, it looks like Toprak his discarded MotoGP and frontrunner status in WSBK for a big paycheck at a manufacturer that has tallied only 1 race win in the last 10 years. Hoping for the best. Maybe the best rider on not-the-best-bike will be a formula for intense competition in 2025 and beyond.