WSB

Yamaha drops Alex Lowes amidst big WorldSBK grid shake-up

Alex Lowes confirms he will not ride with Yamaha in the 2020 WorldSBK championship with Toprak Razgatlioglu set to replace him in factory team

After the all-but-confirmed bombshell that Alvaro Bautista is on his way out of Ducati in favour of a switch to Honda for the 2020 World Superbike Championship, it has now been revealed that Alex Lowes will exit Yamaha at the end of the season too.

Speaking at the most recent WorldSBK test at Portimao, Alex Lowes confirmed rumours that he has indeed been dropped by the factory-backed Crescent Racing-run Pata Yamaha despite apparently having assurances he’d be automatically retained in 2020 under particular conditions.

“I am not going to be in the same team as this year, unfortunately,” he confirmed. “It’s up in the air. Right now, I want to focus on the test. I have a lot a lot of motivation to keep third in the championship and that is keeping me occupied.”

It is widely-known both Lowes and current Pata Yamaha Michael van der Mark team-mate were chasing the magic ‘third place’ spot in the overall standings, which was supposed to secure a renewal for the 2020 WorldSBK season.

However, despite the Briton doing just enough to get the nod over his highly-rated team-mate in the wake of the Laguna Seca round in July, Puccetti Kawasaki’s Toprak Razgatlioglu is set to assume his place.

Why has Yamaha dropped Alex Lowes?

Lowes may be third in the overall standings as originally ‘required’, but this alone hasn’t been enough for Yamaha to make good on its apparent promises. 

Arguing in favour of Yamaha’s decision-marking, the meagre five-point margin between Lowes and van der Mark can be explained away by the fact the Dutchman spent one round on the sidelines entirely after a vicious accident at Misano injured his wrist.

He was then compromised understandably post-op in racing conditions at the ensuing back-to-back rounds at Donington Park and Laguna Seca – nine races, nine dropped points’ opportunities.

Moreover, van der Mark has also won a race for Yamaha this year at Jerez and Lowes, by contrast, managed to crash whilst leading in the wet at Misano.

That’s not to say Lowes hasn’t made a step forward this year on a Yamaha R1 machine he has been integral to the development of and it is believable the manufacturer would have kept the same line-up had a golden opportunity not presented itself…

Suzuka snub the catalyst behind Razgatlioglu Kawasaki exit?

He was already one of the hottest properties on the 2020 WorldSBK rider market but Razgtalioglu’s decision to turn his back on Kawasaki – whom he has had a relationship with since 2015 – has seemingly come in the wake of an embarrassing snub during the Suzuka 8 Hours.

The Turk was a late addition to the official factory KRT line-up alongside the team’s WorldSBK pair Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam… only for him not to complete a single lap in a race the team would go on to win. Nevertheless, paddock sources revealed Razgatlioglu's future was already sealed at Yamaha by this stage

The rider had been tipped to replace Haslam next year in the KRT outfit having moved just 11 points behind the British rider in the run up to the USA round having notched up six podiums in the last ten races on the privateer Puccetti Kawasaki ZX-10RR.

However, it is understood there was a hesitance within Kawasaki to sign Red Bull-backed Razgatlioglu given its association with Monster.  It’s an issue that appears to have now solved itself, but could Kawasaki come to regret losing arguably the most exciting up-and-comer in WorldSBK because it didn’t let him ride at Suzuka?

Who could end up where in WorldSBK 2020?

Fortunately for Lowes, the rider market is opening up a treat at the moment with several factory rides up for grabs. 

With Bautista heading for the HRC-run Honda team in 2020, there is still the matter of who will join him. Lowes is well-liked in Japanese circles for his success riding the Yamaha at the Suzuka 8 Hours – which he won three times – while he took Honda to its most recent high-profile Superbike title in the British series, albeit back in 2013.

His biggest rival for the ride could be Stefan Bradl, who is believed to be developing the new Fireblade behind the scenes, while Aprilia MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone has been quietly mentioned too.

Given his success at Suzuka, Haslam probably has a job for life at Kawasaki but he hasn’t sparkled on the factory bike next to Rea this year. There is talk Lowes could well replace him at KRT, which would see Haslam shuffle over to a factory-supported Puccetti Racing role having raced with the Italian team in selected rounds in 2018.

Bautista’s exit from Ducati did leave a very competitive bike available too, but it is NOW CONFIRMED Chaz Davies is staying to be joined by BSB title contender Scott Redding

The only other factory team with a cast-iron line-up now BMW who confirmed Eugene Laverty will join Tom Sykes for 2020.

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