Could Kenan Sofuoglu’s Toprak Razgatlioglu terms scupper his MotoGP dreams?

Kenan Sofuoglu raises eyebrows by saying Toprak Razgatlioglu would only MotoGP move if it was with the factory Yamaha team... but is he aiming too high?

Toprak Razgatlioglu

Kenan Sofuoglu has raised eyebrows by suggesting WorldSBK Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu will only be prepared to make the switch to MotoGP if he is offered a full factory Yamaha deal for his debut.

The five-time WorldSSP Champion-turned-mentor for Razgatlioglu and a handful of up-and-coming Turkish riders, says the lofty terms for a rider who is yet to test the Yamaha M1 are because he wants to protect his career and emphasise his value.

“When Yamaha makes us an offer for the factory team, we'll think about it,” he is quoted as saying by Speedweek. And only then. It's not that we dream of MotoGP, Yamaha knows that too. We won't be racing for a B team either, but only for the works team."

The response to his comments have been met with some cynicism, but are the terms genuine or is he simply playing hard ball?

Without meaning to dodge the question I’ve posed myself, there is ‘a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B’ where Razgatlioglu’s MotoGP negotiations lie.

First and foremost, Sofuoglu is no shrinking violet. In fact, he is becoming as fearsomely regarded off-track as he was on it and while he has clearly fostered a crucial role in Razgatlioglu’s burgeoning superstardom - one that perhaps gives him a better chance of succeeding where other WorldSBK to MotoGP riders have failed before - it’s a fairly supercharged power play to lob the first hard ball at Yamaha.

After all, Razgatlioglu hasn’t thrown his leg over a MotoGP bike as yet and there are some who fear the tactics that work in WorldSBK - namely the hard braking - won’t necessarily transfer well without a fair bit of tweaking beforehand, something he won’t be able to hide from if he comes in at Yamaha blue.

However, there is a method in the madness. Negotiations for 2023 are taking place across the MotoGP paddock at the moment and Sofuoglu won’t want Razgatlioglu to be picking up whatever may be left without teams being reminded of what an inspired signing he could be.

Moreover, Sofuoglu would need to bank on Fabio Quartararo leaving Yamaha since Franco Morbidelli is signed and sealed for 2023. This is something that seemed unlikely a few weeks ago but now - while still probably the case - has erred in the other direction as numbers start being thrown around. However, if it’s a choice between Quartararo and Razgatlioglu, it doesn’t take an expert to realise which rider Yamaha will choose.

Even so, Yamaha will surely be thinking hard about ‘Plan B’ after its myriad rider rotation issues in 2021 and even with Sofuoglu sending his message in capital letters, it doesn’t want to lose Razgatlioglu to another team.

Regardless, of Sofuoglu’s words, it will all be a moot point if Quartararo re-signs with Yamaha, leaving Razgatlioglu either waiting in the wings for 2024, or accepting a satellite ride. 

The point made about constantly turning RNF Racing down makes sense for now since the Malaysian team has clearly lost some finance, support from Yamaha and clout for next year, but if it can run a tighter ship effectively and Yamaha can guarantee an M1 in all but the livery, then Razgatlioglu to RNF in 2023 would seem the more logical outcome.

In Sofuoglu's defence, he recognises Razgatlioglu's commodity as a quality racer and as a manager he wouldn't be doing his job if he wasn't overstating his rider's abilities. Moreover, Sofuoglu can afford to aim high - Razgatlioglu seems satisified with WorldSBK and would happily remain to the end of 2023 because time is on his side, but he is taking a calculated risk on the 25-year old being as quick on an M1 as he is on an R1.

Fact is, Razgatlioglu's chances of landing the factory Yamaha M1 for 2023 hinge on Quartararo's movements. If he stays, then it will be a choice between an RNF Yamaha for 2023 or wait in the hope Morbidelli doesn't meet expectations before 2024.