Should Toprak Razgatlioglu join MotoGP in 2023 or beyond, then here’s a look at why Andrea Locatelli could successfully replace the WorldSBK champion as Yamaha’s main title hope.

After becoming the first ever Turkish premier class champion thanks to a season that will go down as one of the best in history by any individual rider, Razgatlioglu will start the 2022 campaign as the favourite to repeat his 2021 exploits. 

Although his championship winning margin was a slender 13 points to Jonathan Rea, it’s a gap that was more than double (30) heading into the weekend, and one that if not for a mechanical problem in Portimao would likely have been over 50. 

In other words Razgatlioglu was performing at his best heading into the crucial moments which ultimately led to a brilliant championship win. 

The pair finished on equal wins (13), however, Razgatlioglu had four more victories when it came to feature races, which is important because the points handed out for a feature race is more than double that of the Superpole race.

Along with that, Razgatlioglu was mistake-free compared to Rea and Scott Redding who both suffered more than one race crash due to rider errors, whereas for Razgatlioglu it was down to mechanical failures in both Portimao and Catalunya, while Assen it was because of Garrett Gerloff crashing into the Pata Yamaha rider. 

All of this means Razgatlioglu is without doubt the Japanese manufacturer’s future and biggest hope when it comes to winning in WorldSBK. 

But with a move to MotoGP in 2023 continuing to be rumoured - if anything speculation has gained more and more traction in recent weeks as Razgatlioglu, mentor Kenan Sofuoglu and Team Principal Paul Denning have all hinted it could happen - then Yamaha will need a backup plan, and a good one at that. 

That’s where Locatelli could step-up. The Italian was sensational in 2021 as he claimed rookie of the year honours after finishing fourth in the championship. From round five onwards Locatelli was a consistent top four finisher with only the top three in the championship regularly getting the better of him.

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Locatelli, who failed to deliver the potential many expected in Moto3 and Moto2, has seemingly found his home inside the WorldSBK paddock, as before moving into the top class he thoroughly dominated the 2020 WorldSSP championship.

Locatelli won 12 out of 15 races in what was his rookie season which is no easy feat considering it’s one of the more competitive championships around.

While Razgatlioglu could easily decide to remain in WorldSBK, especially since Sofuoglu has said he won’t move to MotoGP without a factory team ride, Locatelli would be the clear favourite to inherit the number one rider status.

Although we have just one season's worth of results to go off, Locatelli has shown impressive speed in both race trim and qualifying, with the latter being one of the main reasons Razgatlioglu became a title challenge and eventual champion.

The Italian has also shown an ability to be aggressive while making very few mistakes, which again for a rookie is something that’s a lot easier said than done. In fact, the only mistake Locatelli made all year went battling another rider was when he out-braked himself at Portimao and made contact with Michael Van Der Mark.

Another reason why Locatelli could be in line to challenge for a WorldSBK title, especially if Razgatlioglu does indeed join MotoGP in the near future, is the uncertainty of how much longer six-time world champion Rea will continue on for, while another 2021 title contender from the last two seasons Redding has joined BMW who aren’t expected to be championship challengers for at least this season and maybe 2023 as well. 

Despite others such as Alvaro Bautista, Michael Van Der Mark, Alex Lowes and Michael Rinaldi all being WorldSBK race winners and more experienced than Locatelli, all four riders have shown various levels of inconsistencies, which is something GRT Yamaha rider Gerloff also struggled with in 2021. 

A lot will depend on this season for Locatelli and if becoming Yamaha’s lead rider is something he can do should Razgatlioglu leave for MotoGP. But if he can show the same level of consistency from round one to the end of the season along with a year-two jump in performance, then race wins could and should perhaps be expected, even with Razgatlioglu still on the grid.