Kenan Sofuoglu: ‘Toprak is stronger with BMW, he’s going to be a title favourite’

Kenan Sofuoglu believes Toprak Razgatlioglu is a favourite for the WorldSBK title after his stunning performance in Barcelona.

Toprak Razgatlioglu, Catalunya WorldSBK, Race2, 24 March
Toprak Razgatlioglu, Catalunya WorldSBK, Race2, 24 March

A track that was often problematic for Toprak Razgatlioglu and Yamaha, the 2021 WorldSBK champion delivered two of his finest performances ever in the series.

Race 1 was a masterclass in tyre preservation from Razgatlioglu, before winning an epic Superpole shootout against Alvaro Bautista at the final corner. 

Not many expected the Razgatlioglu and BMW partnership to be so strong early on, but Sofuoglu was not one of those.

“Last year, we made a big decision to BMW, and I gave a lot of support to Toprak to make this decision,” Sofuoglu told 

“So many people thought we made the wrong decision. As a rider, I believed the BMW was a very good bike.

“The first meeting I spoke to BMW, the team and the manager spoke about it, and I thought they had a very good bike.

“I thought, ‘You have one very nice puzzle, and one piece is missing’ which is Toprak. Everything’s going very well now, he’s winning in the second round.

“I believe Toprak is one of the strongest riders for the last lap especially. In Barcelona, you need to make your last attack in the hairpin before the last part of the track.

“Toprak couldn’t do it and I asked myself why he didn’t try, because I know he normally does in that kind of corner.

“He releases the brake, manages to stop the bike and he couldn’t. I was thinking about second position.

“In the last corner, he found a place to enter, and he did it. I asked him why he didn’t try at the place he’s strong, he said, ‘There was a big gap, I couldn’t try but I didn’t give up, waited until the last corner’ and he managed it.”

While Sofuoglu maintained the stance that Razgatlioglu could be competitive with the M 1000 RR after agreeing a deal with the German brand, winning races was not entirely the expectation, at least right away.

“We believed a lot, but we weren’t sure when we can win,” added Sofuoglu. “After winter testing, I started to believe more.

Toprak Razgatlioglu, Catalunya WorldSBK, Superpole Race, 24 March
Toprak Razgatlioglu, Catalunya WorldSBK, Superpole Race, 24 March

“But I was believing we can win at Assen or Donington, I didn’t expect it in Barcelona! Barcelona’s not Toprak’s favourite track but he’s so strong.

“Toprak’s in his sixth season in WorldSBK and if I look at all the winter testing times, Toprak is stronger this year with BMW, and I understand he’s going to be favourite for the title.”

Like Razgatlioglu, Alvaro Bautista was impressive in Barcelona as he came from the fifth row to finish second in the Superpole Race, before dominating Race 2.

Bautista’s team-mate Nicolo Bulega leads the championship standings, but it’s Bautista who Sofuoglu still believes is the main threat for Razgatlioglu.

Sofuoglu said: “I think still the main, hard competition for us is Bautista. He gave us a very hard time on Sunday, we beat him in the last corner.

“He’s a hard rival. Bautista’s got a hard time too, because Bulega arrived from WorldSSP and is immediately making lap records everywhere and I can understand Bautista’s situation; you are the #1 in the garage and the newcomer, the new teammate makes you feel less confident in your garage. This is very normal in racing. It’s good for us, honestly!”

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