WorldSBK

Toprak Razgatlioglu quit Kawasaki over Suzuka snub and MotoGP option

Toprak Razgatlioglu was driven into the arms of Yamaha by Kawasaki's late decision to drop him from Suzuka line-up, despite offer of a factory WorldSBK deal

Toprak Razgatlioglu is reportedly on Yamaha’s radar for a move into the MotoGP World Championship following his switch to the manufacturer in the WorldSBK Championship.

The claim comes from his former team manager Manuel Puccetti in an interview with GPOne, who says it was one of the reasons he defected from Kawasaki together with the fallout that came in the wake of him being dropped from its Suzuka 8 Hours line-up on the eve of the race.

The Turkish rider, regarded as one of the most exciting new talents in WorldSBK, curtailed his long association with Kawasaki in favour of a move to the Yamaha factory team in 2020 despite being offered a factory ride with the title-winning outfit alongside Jonathan Rea this season.

Indeed, Razgatlioglu was in high demand after a string of strong results on the satellite Puccetti Kawasaki over the course of the season, which ultimately led to him being drafted in fairly late to KRT’s effort in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance event together with Rea and Leon Haslam.

However, while KRT went on to famously secure Kawasaki’s victory in the race for the first time in 26 years, the Turk didn’t turn a single wheel in the race after being told he wouldn’t be required.

The news didn’t go down well with both himself and his manager – four-time WorldSSP Kenan Sofuoglu – who branded it ‘disrespectful’ according to Puccetti, though the Italian himself admits the decision was made by Japan based on Razgatlioglu’s aggression on the tyres.

“On the sporting side it was very complicated because in the moment of maximum tension I tried to calm Toprak, who is always very calm but when he gets angry he does it for real,” Puccetti said.

“Kawasaki informed us of the decision not to run Toprak on Saturday evening and Sofuoglu immediately advised him to leave Suzuka because they had been disrespectful. I objected because we had made a commitment with the factory and a small part of me justified Kawasaki since in a race like the 8 Hours you need not only speed but consistency. Toprak was not very sweet with the tyres and then in the global vision of the race the Japanese evaluated that.”

Nonetheless, the decision had a high price and led to Razgatlioglu and Sofuoglu taking Yamaha’s offer more seriously, despite Kawasaki’s own tempting contract to join the factory team, with Puccetti saying there is a clause that could see him primed for MotoGP in the years to come.

“The next day Kawasaki sent us an email where they said they were ready to take a flight to Istanbul to talk with Kenan and Toprak. The Kawasaki offer was to bring him to the official team with Rea but Kenan thanked them so much and closed the door.

“Yamaha had already made an offer with a glimpse of MotoGP in a few years. Kenan made a counter proposal to Kawasaki asking to stay on my team (Puccetti) with an official package but it didn’t go like that.”

Will Kawasaki come to regret Suzuka 8 Hours snub?

There have long been rumours about what really went on in Suzuka, with some claiming Razgatlioglu’s deal with Yamaha was decided before that.

However, Puccetti shines a light on how Kawasaki by taking its victory at the Suzuka 8 Hours – which for Japanese firms is the Indy 500 of Superbike racing – so seriously, effectively pushed its star protégé into the arms of another team.

Whether Kawasaki was disrespectful or justified in its actions is up for debate, but it perhaps didn’t expect him to turn down a spot in a title-winning team either on the back of it.

As to whether Yamaha comes good on its MotoGP option is a different matter. The youngster is certainly talented and has time on his side, but it’s worth noting Michael van der Mark was also lured on a similar premise a few years ago and save for a couple of guest outings hasn’t quite made the step up people were expecting.

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