Jonathan Rea believes Toprak Razgatlioglu was always set to challenge him for the 2021 WorldSBK title, while also alluding to the Yamaha rider having less weaknesses than all his previous rivals.

In an exclusive interview with Crash.net, Rea opened up about his battle with Razgatlioglu, a battle that saw both riders contest the 2021 world championship until the 36th race out of 37. 

After starting the season finale round in Indonesia with a 30 point lead, Razgatlioglu wrapped up the title after finishing second to Rea in race one. 

Rea then went on to win a wet race two from 2020 title rival Scott Redding, while Razgatlioglu was fourth after losing the final podium spot to former Pata Yamaha team-mate Michael Van Der Mark. 

"It’s good because he’s a hard rider and like myself; sometimes you can’t complain too much about others because when you're on the receiving end of tough racing because you ride equally as tough," Rea told Crash.net when speaking about Razgatlioglu. 

"That’s the good thing about me and him and in a race if he’s in a fighting situation he’s going to expect that I’m there and it’s the same when he’s behind me. 

"I sort of know that there’s a pass on anywhere. There’s a lot of races this year where I understood his mentality, his tactics a lot better, how he managed the race and that will help me when battling with him in the future."

For many, this was a championship duel that was inevitable at some stage even before Razgatlioglu joined Yamaha for the start of last season. 

And after a solid first season with the Japanese manufacturer, albeit one where injury at Barcelona derailed his campaign to some extent, Razgatlioglu put together one of the most consistent seasons ever to take the title. 

But this was no surprise to Rea who expected the Turkish rider to be ‘the guy’ as it related to being his main rival, while the Kawasaki rider also believed this to be true due to having less weaknesses than Redding and 2019 title rival Alvaro Bautista. 

Rea added: "Of course I expected him (Toprak Razgatligolu) to be there right from the start because last year they made a few mistakes, he got injured also in Barcelona which had a knock on effect for a few races. 

"I think there was no question he would be the guy and what I like about Toprak is that he’s a quiet achiever. 

"He doesn’t talk about what he’s going to do, he’s just there, he’s always there. So you can’t not respect someone like that. 

"It’s hard to compare with someone like Redding or Bautista because they’re all different, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. 

"But I would say Toprak has less weaknesses than the others and that’s why he won the championship this year. 

"He was stronger than everyone and he made less mistakes than everyone. So fair play and kudos to him and his team."