WorldSBK Assen | Crossed lines and words leave Toprak Razgatlioglu rattled

A glance back at the talking points from the Round 2 of the 2022 WorldSBK at Assen, including a rattled Toprak Razgatlioglu and more Jonathan Rea landmarks

Toprak Razgatlioglu - Yamaha, 2022 WorldSBK

The second round of the 2022 WorldSBK Championship at Assen threw up its familiar cocktail of fast-paced, pulsating racing up and down the field.

But while Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea once more proved flavour of the weekend with the three victories shared between them, defending champion Toprak Razgatlioglu leaves the Netherlands with a bitter aftertaste… can the Turk turn things around?

Where is WorldSBK champ Razgatlioglu’s razzle dazzle?

If Bautista’s resurgence on the Ducati has been the ‘good news’ story of the season so far, by contrast it is proving somewhat ‘bad news’ for the man he and Rea are bidding to topple from the top of the WorldSBK perch.

While Aragon was inconclusive, Assen - perhaps surprisingly - played out a similar plotline for the Razgatlioglu as he powered to pole position once again, only to look a touch flaccid under pressure in the races.

It’s a relative 180 compared with 2021 when Razgatlioglu - at least during the first half of the year - often turned it around in races from iffy qualifying positions. However, while he held the lead in all three races, a pair of arm’s length third place results were his return.

A rider whose relentless wave of attacks on Yamaha R1 stymied and ultimately cracked Rea at various points last year, Razgatlioglu doesn’t appear as fluid or as unflinchingly confident at this stage. To an extent it appears Razgatlioglu is still figuring Bautista out, the Spaniard’s swift turn of pace and certain straight line speed advantage going a long way to neuter the Yamaha man’s more aggressive braking and turning style.

Whereas Razgatlioglu would often come back at Rea using these weapons, they aren’t working so cleanly against a rival dominating the entry point to a corner. It’s a quandary Razgatlioglu will need to work out and soon after an untimely DNF dropped him 45 points adrift in the title race.

At the very least it will be a measure of a World Champion to adapt on the run, but he has done it before. Indeed, at this stage last year Rea was already galloping clear atop the standings before Razgatlioglu hit his stride.

More favourable venues are on the horizon… but Estoril will be a key event to determine where Razgatlioglu belongs in this simmering title feud.

Vital statistics

When Carl Fogarty crossed the line to win the 1999 German WorldSBK round at the Hockenheimring, his 59th (and last) victory appeared to be a tally that would hold firm for generations.

Indeed, Nori Haga got within range with a tally of 43 - belying his zero titles - while Troy Bayliss got closer still with 52. Then came Jonathan Rea…

Surpassing Fogarty’s record in June 2018 at Brno with his 60th win, Rea’s relentless march certainly hasn’t stopped there and now - fewer than four years later - he stands head and shoulders above everyone with an extraordinary 115 wins. Yes, the three-race format skews the scale slightly, but not enough to explain numbers that almost double that of Fogarty’s.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Assen weekend brought another landmark for Rea as he notched up his 100th victory as a Kawasaki rider, while wins 16 and 17 at Assen alone represent another record as well. 

It comes amid an upturn in form for Rea, who looks far more assured on the 2022-spec Kawasaki ZX-10RR than he did at times in 2021, the Ulsterman seemingly emboldened by his keen rivalry with Razgatlioglu to come out fighting stronger than before.

Interestingly, despite the two going head-to-head for the title in 2019, this is arguably the first time Rea has fought hard against Alvaro Bautista, the pair having enjoyed dominance during their purple patches to such an extent that neither directly battled it out on track three years ago.

The refreshed title battle comes at an important time as Rea considers his own future in the sport. His contract comes up for renewal at the end of the year, with murmurings he might have considered alternative options had he started the year on the back foot.

However, the strong start to the season means Rea will likely pen another deal with Kawasaki… who knows, he might have enough time in his career to hit a double ton.

Balancing performance and opinions in WorldSSP

After undergoing the biggest regulation shake-up in its history, organisers have every reason to brand the ‘next gen’ WorldSSP Championship a success.

While there is definitely familiarity at the top with Yamaha clinching all four wins between Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate) and Lorenzo Baldassari (Evan Bros), the advantage they hold over their four rivals can be measured more by the quality of the riders and teams than any discernible advantage of the venerable R6 package.

That’s not to say everyone is best pleased with the outcome. The incoming Ducati, Triumph and MV Agusta entrants remain irked with the throttle restrictions put in place to negate their larger engine sizes, claiming they are too limiting out of corners.

MV Agusta team boss Andrea Quadranti even went as far to threaten withdrawing from the series, telling Speedweek: “The way the rules are now, we can't possibly fight for the podium - everyone else can. And I'm not even talking about wins, it's frustrating. I'm patient, but it won't be like this forever."

Despite this, each model has registered a top six finish already and it’s likely the FIM will tweak the regulations further to close up the competition down the line… Regardless, it has been a long time since WorldSSP has looked so healthy.