Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jonathan Rea, a simmering WorldSBK rivalry... and a broom

Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea are primed and ready to take their WorldSBK rivalry to a final round Showdown in Indonesia... but who will clean up?

Toprak Razgatlioglu

As far as rivalries go, the one embroiling WorldSBK title contenders Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea’s isn’t what you would call bitter… but it has taken a bizarre ‘meme-ish’ turn involving the Turk and a broom.

Motor racing championships love a good rivalry - a feud for the ages. One they can slap on billboards, egg on in ads for tickets and sell a show that leans away from polite post-race handshakes into potential boxing matches.

It’s something WorldSBK has, frankly, been crying out for for years. Indeed, you have to go back to 2014 for the last proper title contender spat, but even then that was between Tom Sykes and Loris Baz when the latter didn’t exactly help his Kawasaki team-mate in his championship battle with Sylvain Guintoli, even if he didn’t lose it entirely because of the Frenchman either. In short, as a spat, it barely counts.

Since then Rea has ruled the roost for six straight years but finds himself on the back foot heading to the Mandalika finale, with 30 points the deficit in an Indonesian round with 62 on offer.

As frustrating as this is for the Ulsterman, it’s perhaps fair to say after such a long period of domination, there is a widespread thirst for something new even before you consider it has come from a rider that has beaten Rea at his own game and done it with a skip in his rear wheel and a broom in his hand.

A simmering feud WorldSBK wants... and needs

For all the furrowed brows, blue steely glances and dramatic background music, the rivalry between Rea and Razgatlioglu isn’t quite an angry one yet... but there is still a round to go.

However, does have simmering potential, one you can liken to a boxing match - without the pre-match pomp of the weigh-in - but one where both are increasingly channelling any incredulousness into the racing with increasing examples of elbows being bashed, paint being swapped and brakes being let off in the pursuit of spooking the other into submission.

It has led to some fantastic action, a battle that has forced Rea to raise his game - with occasional errors seeping into his erstwhile unwavering consistency as a result - and elevated Razgatlioglu from a star in waiting into a young legend of his discipline.

With this in mind, you can sense the tension rising in temperature even though they - for the cameras - remain friends with a huge respect for one another, a relationship forged from Razgatlioglu’s stint at Kawasaki which led to Rea developing something of a paternal mentorship role.

However, with the pupil on the verge of becoming the master, the competitive streak is clear, starting with Rea and Kawasaki’s successful overturning of a win at Magny-Cours by pointing out correctly - albeit marginally - that Razgatlioglu exceeded track limits. 

I have written previously that while the ruling was poorly handled, Rea himself shouldn’t have been criticised for exercising his right to protest with a World Championship on the line, not least because he was ultimately correct. If he’d have gone on to lose the title by three points, then you would question why he didn’t protest it.

"Let's play Superbike Sweep!"

Razgatlioglu took it in his stride - unlike a bitter Yamaha - but the ensuing gnarly racing at Portimao gave a clue as to his real emotions, not least when he proceeded to stop at the final corner during the cool down lap, pick up a broom and knowingly sweep away at an offending green painted portion designated ‘do not race’ by the stewards.

It was a cheeky bit of Rossi-like showmanship that is sadly missing from post-race celebrations these days, so fair play to Rea who - having been down and out in that particular race - ran with the jibe after winning the final race of the weekend by riding over to the same patch and proceeding to unleash a burnout on it. 

Whether it was done in good humour or with the tongue firmly in cheek doesn’t matter, it makes for great spectating. 

Undeterred, Razgatlioglu has seemingly developed a penchant for sweeping, from which we can surmise he is either brushing the competition aside, cleaning up at the races, has a bizarre fetish or developed OCD.

After helping out in Argentina following a dust storm - which, no offence to Razgatlioglu’s skills, was always going to be futile - he’s been at it again on social media seemingly touting for a cleaning job. He’ll even bring his own uniform.

Fortunately for him, he’s pretty good at racing motorbikes and while we have another couple of weeks before we crown either himself or Rea as WorldSBK Champion, we toast the pair right now for making this a season to remember.