Toprak Razgatlioglu is to have a second chance to ride the Yamaha M1 MotoGP machine. The Turkish rider is to join Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow at Jerez on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th of April to have two days on the bike.
This will be Razgatlioglu's second test aboard a Yamaha MotoGP machine, after an earlier test last year aboard the M1 at Aragon was disrupted by rain. That test gave him a taste of riding a MotoGP bike, but did not give him enough time to fully understand the different riding style a MotoGP machine requires.
It is, however, a sign that Razgatlioglu is serious about a switch to MotoGP. In an interview last week with Speedweek's Ivo Schützbach, Razgatlioglu stated a desire to race in MotoGP in 2024. "I was WorldSBK champion in 2021, now I am looking at MotoGP. Why shouldn't I try it there?" he told Speedweek.
There have been rumors that Razgatlioglu could come to MotoGP for several years, but nothing has so far come of it. Razgatlioglu is happy in WorldSBK, and capable of winning, and has consistently made it clear that he would only make the switch if he was offered a seat in a factory team and a chance to fight for wins and podiums.
The Speedweek interview underlines that desire, and is one of the first times Razgatlioglu has been so explicit about his objective of moving to MotoGP. His contract with Yamaha runs until the end of 2023, and so there is an opportunity to assess his options.
If Razgatlioglu insists on a factory team, his only option would be to move to the Monster Energy Yamaha squad, replacing Franco Morbidelli. Morbidelli has had a miserable couple of years recently, with his fourth place in Argentina the one positive highlight. Whether that is solely down to his ability to ride when grip is low, or a sign of a resurgence for the Italian, will only become clear over time.
The other 11 riders in factory teams all have contracts through 2024. But with the Ducati proving to be the most competitive bike in MotoGP at the moment, a slot in the factory-backed Pramac squad on a 2024-spec Desmosedici could also be an option. Jorge Martin has made his unhappiness at missing out on the seat in the factory Ducati Lenovo squad very clear, and made noises about being open to leave. Johann Zarco has proven to be a solid test rider for Ducati, and more than capable of scoring podiums.
Beyond that, Razgatlioglu's options are limited. Both VR46 riders are out of contract at the end of 2023, but with Marco Bezzecchi having already won a race, and Luca Marini proving to be a constant threat, there is little reason to drop either of them for the Turkish WorldSBK star. Especially given the VR46 squad's commitment to being a conduit for Italian talent, and both Marini and Bezzecchi being part of the VR46 Riders Academy.
There is another factor complicating both a switch to the VR46 team and a move to Yamaha's MotoGP team. Toprak Razgatlioglu has been a Red Bull athlete for his entire career, but both the Monster Energy Yamaha team and the VR46 squad are backed by Monster. Where Razgatlioglu got away with staying with Red Bull when he joined Yamaha's WorldSBK squad (his deal said he would leave Red Bull for Monster, but he just ignored this and turned up at the first test in full Red Bull regalia), that would be impossible for the factory Yamaha team, whose title sponsor is Monster. And the entire VR46 empire is closely tied to Monster Energy, as Valentino Rossi himself is still a Monster athlete.
The Gresini squad could also be an option, but that would mean the Italian squad having to drop either Alex Marquez or Fabio Di Giannantonio. Marquez already has a podium for the team, and Di Giannantonio has shown signs of progress this year. He is also the only Italian rider in the team, a very important factor in a very Italian team.
Whether Razgatlioglu gets the chance to make the switch from WorldSBK to MotoGP will depend a lot on how this test goes. Two days on the Yamaha M1 and (more importantly) Michelin tires in good weather should give both Yamaha and Razgatlioglu a much better idea of his chances of success. Razgatlioglu told Speedweek that if there is not an option to move to MotoGP, he would be happy to stay in WorldSBK for the remainder of his racing career.
The test Razgatlioglu is joining will be the shakedown for the official IRTA test to be held on the Monday after the Spanish Grand Prix at the Andalusian circuit at the end of April. Cal Crutchlow is likely to be testing the new aerodynamics packages and a new exhaust which Fabio Quartararo said he had been told Yamaha would be bringing to the official IRTA test.
The press release from Yamaha Motor Europe, the organization behind Yamaha's WorldSBK team, appears below:
Toprak Razgatlıoğlu to Test Yamaha YZR-M1 at Jerez MotoGP Test
2021 Superbike World Champion, Toprak Razgatlıoğlu, will have a new opportunity to test the Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP machine during a planned development test at the Jerez circuit in Andalucía, Spain.
Razgatlıoğlu will join Yamaha’s MotoGP Test Rider, Cal Crutchlow, for two days of testing on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th April in Jerez.
It will be the Turkish star’s second test aboard the YZR-M1, after his first outing at Motorland Aragon in June last year was cut short by inclement weather.
The characteristics of the 4.428 km Jerez circuit are well suited to Razgatlıoğlu’s riding style and the test should provide an ideal opportunity for him to accrue plenty of track time and adapt himself to the YZR-M1.
Lin Jarvis - Managing Director Yamaha Motor Racing Srl
“Firstly, let me say it is our pleasure to be able to give Toprak another opportunity to ride the YZR-M1. I was unable to be present at his previous test but this time I will be in Jerez to follow the testing and I will depart straight from there to attend the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin next weekend. Toprak is an extraordinarily talented motorcycle racer, and I am very curious to see his speed on our Factory MotoGP machine. He will have the chance to ride alongside Cal who will be there for the ongoing development testing of our 2023 YZR-M1.”
Andrea Dosoli - Road Racing Manager Yamaha Motor Europe N.V.
“I would like to thank both Yamaha Motor Company and Yamaha Motor Racing for giving Toprak the opportunity to test the YZR-M1 once again. As the reigning Superbike World Champion, Toprak’s test aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1 last year was highly anticipated by many in both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks. Unfortunately, it was difficult for him to fully familiarise with the YZR-M1 at the Aragon test due to the disruption caused by the weather. This time around at Jerez, a track at which Toprak has traditionally been very strong, it looks like we’re going to enjoy almost perfect testing conditions. Toprak’s focus at this test will, once again, be on getting a feel for the characteristics of the YZR-M1 and the Michelin tyres, whereas we are very interested to see how quickly a WorldSBK rider of his calibre can adapt to the unique demands of riding a MotoGP bike.”
“I am looking forward to testing the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike at Jerez, a track I like a lot. The last test in Aragon was limited by the weather, but in Jerez it looks like we’ll have better conditions and more track time. It will give me the chance to understand better the demands of racing a Factory MotoGP bike. Thanks to Yamaha for giving me this opportunity.”