Jonathan Rea has joked he shouldn’t have helped out Toprak Razgatlioglu during his first season in the WorldSBK Championship after tipping him as the candidate most likely to succeed him on the title roster.

The Ulsterman heads into the 2020 WorldSBK season on a record-breaking run of five titles but faces fresh challenges from different corners this year following a shake up in the rider market over the winter.

With Alvaro Bautista – Rea’s closest rival in 2019 – defecting to Honda, ex-MotoGP rider Scott Redding replaces him at Ducati, while Alex Lowes has already given a hint of his potential by winning first time out with Kawasaki in Australia.

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However, it’s Razgatlioglu that Rea believes has the best shot at either ending his WorldSBK title run or taking up the mantle when he retires.

The Turk made his full-time WorldSBK debut in 2018 on the privateer Puccetti Kawasaki and emerged as a front-runner in 2019, notching up a pair of wins at Magny-Cours. For 2020 he has switched to the factory Pata Yamaha team, marking his debut with the outfit by claiming a victory at Phillip Island.

“Young Toprak that came up from within the Kawasaki family and now he’s at Yamaha,” he told the official WorldSBK website. “I have a soft spot for him because he was a pretty raw talent in Superstock, he really flattered the bike.

“I always helped him out in his first year of Superbikes – I’m kind of regretting that now! He’s the real deal. I feel like I’m not done with world championships, but I feel like he’ll be the next one.”

Rea also discussed Bautista surprise move to leave Ducati in favour of the new Team HRC Honda project, saying he doesn’t think it’s ‘such a bad decision’.

“My management have spoken to Ducati probably every year, so I know how good the package is that Chaz is on. He takes most of that budget, so I think probably Alvaro felt pretty undervalued, getting the drags of the rider budget and obviously Honda came and with a big new proposal.

“Also, when you put a HRC stamp on something and they tell you they’re serious, you’ve got to sit up and think they’ll get it right. Maybe not in 2020 but I think they’re in it to try and win it. I don’t think it’s such a bad decision.”