“I wasn’t sure about signing Toprak Razgatlioglu to Yamaha” - Paul Denning

Crescent Racing boss Paul Denning admits he wasn’t initially convinced about poaching Yamaha's 2021 WorldSBK champ Toprak Razgatlioglu from Kawasaki

Toprak Razgatlioglu - Pata Crescent Yamaha, 2021 WorldSBK

Pata Crescent Yamaha team manager Paul Denning has revealed he held reservations about swooping in for the signature of its 2021 WorldSBK Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu when the option to do so emerged in 2019.

The Turkish rider defected to Yamaha from the Kawasaki stable he’d competed with through Superstock 600/1000 and WorldSBK for the 2020 season.

It was a move motivated in part by Razgatlioglu and manager Kenan Sofuoglu’s anger that the rider was named as part of Kawasaki’s winning Suzuka 8 Hours squad alongside Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, only to be benched on arrival as the team focused on its factory pair instead.

As such, though Razgatlioglu was still being primed to make the step from the satellite Puccetti Racing squad to the full factory Kawasaki Racing Team for 2020, the Suzuka snub ignited discussions with rival manufacturers, with Yamaha winning his signature.

Even so, despite some headline-grabbing performances - namely his pair of wins in Magny-Cours from 16th on the grid - Denning admits it was Yamaha Racing boss Andrea Dosoli that had to convince him to swap Alex Lowes out for the youngster.

“I have to give kudos to Andrea Dosoli, for pretty much insisting that this was the way we should go,” he told Visordown. “I wasn’t sure because we had Michael going well, we had Alex progressing every year and together had won four Suzuki 8 Hours for Yamaha. 

“However, Andrea has the privilege of being able to take a wider view at riders in other teams because I’m more focused on doing everything possible to make the team you have better and do what you can to support your riders.

“So with Toprak, whilst he was amazingly quick on the Puccetti bike at some events, he’d also have some quite poor events and he was slow in the rain, qualifying was a problem and there were issues with fitness in the humidity in Buriram for instance. It was difficult to measure where he was.”

Razgatlioglu immediately settled internal nerves by winning on his Yamaha debut in Australia and bookended his campaign with two more wins at the Estoril finale..

Though a mid-season lull that year made it unclear whether Razgatlioglu could be considered a title contender for 2021, he went on to  string together a remarkable run of form from Round 3 onwards that yielded 13 wins and 29 podiums en route to a spectacula title win.

“In 2020 because he won in his first race out on our bike and he had some challenging weekends as well.

“Could anyone have foreseen a season like this where he won 13 races and 29 podiums, it was an incredible hit rate. Not a single mistake over the course of a season, the DNFs were nothing to do with him. I couldn’t have predicted that kind of season in 2019.”