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Eazi Grip

Toprak Razgatlioglu smashes lap record to top the final WorldSBK test at Phillip Island

The last testing action before racing begins is now over with Razgatlioglu and BMW leading the way.

The Turkish superstar put in a stunning lap to go under the existing lap record in Australia as he claimed top spot on the last test day before the season starts.

Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) topped the times in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s Official Test as he smashed both the existing lap record and his own pole time from last year. The Turkish rider has now topped the last two test days on his M 1000 RR as he looks to start the new chapter in his career in the best possible way, with ‘El Turco’ giving himself and BMW confidence.

In FP1, Razgatlioglu finished third after setting a 1’29.110s and completing 43 laps in a disrupted session. He was only 0.220s behind pacesetter Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and 0.109s slower than Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) in second. However, in FP2, Razgatlioglu rocketed to top spot with a 1’28.511s. Only Bulega, Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) were able to lap in the 1’28s bracket, but it was the first time a WorldSBK machine had been this fast at Phillip Island. The existing lap record, for comparison, belongs to Tom Sykes when he secured pole in 2020 with a 1’29.230s while Razgatlioglu’s pole for Yamaha last year was a 1’29.400s.

Reacting to his incredible pace, Razgatlioglu said: “I was scared a lot because normally, I’m not really strong at this track. I started very strong, and the race pace is very, very strong. However, the problem is the rear tyre. After ten laps, it’s done. There’s a new surface with too much grip. I did a very good lap with the new lap record but for me, the race weekend is more important. I am only focused on this. The feeling is very good but in general, I am very happy.”

Back in 2020, Razgatlioglu made his Yamaha debut in WorldSBK and stunned by claiming victory in Race 1. It’s a feat he will be hoping to achieve with BMW following his bombshell move to the German manufacturer. Although Razgatlioglu stressed he was only thinking about a first rostrum with BMW, the 2021 Champion did state he was hoping to be able to fight for victory and potentially repeat his feat of winning on debut.

Looking ahead to the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round, Razgatlioglu said: “It’s important to start with a good result. At the moment, I am thinking only about the podium, but I hope I can fight for the win. It won’t be an easy race! We are working; we’re not at 100% now but we’ve started quickly. In general, it looks like everything is good. I’m excited ahead of the first race, so maybe after the first race, I’ll be more relaxed! It’s never easy to race here, especially with the new tarmac. I think everyone will enjoy watching the races this weekend!”

Razgatlioglu Vs Bulega: Trading blows for lap record honours

It was a busy day for BMW, who continued to try various swingarms. Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), like throughout other tests, was right in contention. He wasn’t sure what exactly to expect at Phillip Island but was fast, particularly in the middle sectors. However, outright pace wasn’t the target for BMW as both Toprak and teammate Michael van der Mark worked on chassis balance, in order to preserve tyre life as best as possible. There were also new strategies being tried for engine braking, although chassis and front-end material is fixed. Continued work on engine strategy, electronics and swingarm went on all day. Toprak went all-out at the end of the day and smashed the lap record, snatching it from Bulega to make it a 1’28.511. Van der Mark slipped down the order, finishing in 14th.

Once again at Ducati, a day of two halves. Nicolo Bulega was absolutely sensation in FP1 and became the first WorldSBK rider to lap the track in the 1’28 bracket with a 1’28.890. He did suffer a crash at Turn 4 however but was unharmed. He then turned on the coals during the final ten minutes of testing action, gobbling up the lap record to set a 1’28.585 although he would finish in P2 overall. However, Alvaro Bautista suffered a slightly faster crash at Turn 6 and still isn’t comfortable aboard his machine on his way to P7. Not a consistent threat throughout the day inside the top ten, team boss Serafino Foti stated that it was more of a case of wait and see for the double World Champion with regards to how he’s feeling with his nagging injury. The plan across Ducati’s box was to get used to the new track surface at Phillip Island and understand how the tyre reacts, although Foti stated that he has no concerns over race pace. Bautista has won eight out of the nine races he’s took part in for Ducati at Phillip Island, Bulega was a winner for them in WorldSSP last year.

Rea crashes, Locatelli shines: Two contrasting sides from Yamaha

It was a day of two sides for the Pata Prometeon Yamaha team too; the headline was that Jonathan Rea suffered a big crash at Turn 11, a lowside coming through the corner. Rea was already down field at the time and didn’t look comfortable when leaving the medical centre. As for FP2, he was one of the last riders out, initially doing a short stint. He was outside the top ten with more than an hour to go, with the plan at the start of the day to try some more new items and finalise the package for the weekend. Teammate Andrea Locatelli was in good form at a circuit he loves, a constant threat in the top five as he looked to work on tyre life and race simulations, with his base setup already confirmed from previous tests. The Italian finished in third going into the weekend, Rea was stuck in 15th.

The Maniac is right there: Iannone storms ‘The Island’ as racing return nears

Another test, another strong performance from Andrea Iannone as the one-time MotoGP™ winner claims fourth place on the final day of off-season testing.

Several riders have been making waves in off-season testing for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, including Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) as he prepares for his rookie season. ‘The Maniac’ linked up with the Independent Ducati outfit for his maiden campaign in World Superbike on the Panigale V4 R and has been showing his speed as he mixes it up at the sharp end of the grid in testing, including with fourth in the Official Test.

Iannone had been quick at Jerez and Portimao and this continued during the Official Test at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, a track he’s gone well at in the past – even when faced with local wildlife trying to get out of his way. In Tuesday’s test, Iannone recorded the fourth fastest time, behind fellow rapid rookie Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), with Iannone setting a 1’29.001s as he narrowly missed out on a 1’28s lap time, something on Bulega achieved in testing. In FP2, Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) both when quicker, while Bulega extended his gap over his compatriot.

Revelling in his performance at the test, and other winter tests, Iannone said: “I think the day is a little bit better compared to the past. In the end, it’s always a balance. With the soft tyres, I ride slower than with the race tyres and this is a big problem. Maybe I have a good race pace, but I have to start further back and it’s bad to recover a lot of positions. We need to learn and improve in this area. After a long time, I think it’s a good comeback. My position is not bad. I need to learn this category because everything is different. The tyres change a lot and the bike and format. I don’t know what to expect.”

Like Bulega, it means Iannone has now been fast in every single test he’s taken part in, from the November 2023 Jerez test to the tests at the Spanish venue and Portimao in January and now Australia. In FP2, his best time was a 1’29.444s but his FP1 time was enough to secure third spot with Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) doing enough to demote his compatriot into third place, with Bulega leading the pair.

Speaking to the media after testing, Iannone expanded on a potential weak spot, his strengths, and his goals for Australia: “In any case, it’s really good because, after four years, I’m excited because I didn’t expect to arrive at this level. I’m proud of this. We struggled a lot especially with the soft tyres, I ride slower than with a race tyre! This is the big problem. We have a Superpole Race, and in this race, we use soft tyres. In Superpole, we need to start in front. In the end, the positive thing is with the SC1, and in general in these tests, we are always more or less in the top three. We struggle a lot with soft tyres and it’s the third time we’ve had this problem. I’m a little bit worried about this. I’m surprised. I don’t know how to explain my pace, but I prefer it like this! Everything is natural so I’m happy. With the race tyres, we are really close; sometimes we are the best, sometimes we are top three. This is the most important thing. It’s important we calm down because this is just the beginning.”

Green signs: Lowes and Bassani find form

A promising day was completed for Kawasaki, with Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) right in the thick of the action in both the morning and the afternoon session. Eighth in the opening session, the #22 actually went faster in the afternoon, a time that put him second provisionally, showcasing that the collaboration between him and crew chief Pere Riba, as well as Kawasaki’s upgrades – particularly with electronics – are paying dividends. Whilst not as high as he’d have liked to have been, teammate Axel Bassani also made gains and was closer to the front than at any other point during testing and likewise set his best time in the afternoon session. Both had the aim of working over long distance. Lowes was fifth at the end of it all with Bassani tenth, although both were briefly inside the top five at the same time during the afternoon session.

Lecuona injured: Honda’s woes continue Down Under

Honda’s day couldn’t have started any worse for Iker Lecuona (Team HRC). The Spaniard was hoping to make up for lost test time from Portimao in a bid to find a base setup for the new bike but instead, his day ended in the gravel. A highside at Turn 11 left him out of action for the remainder of the morning and the entirety of the afternoon, with his arm in a sling. For Vierge, he chipped away and his race pace – as ever – seemed more promising than his one lap pace. The #97 was 16th, whilst Lecuona relied on his FP1 time to be 19th overall, leaving Honda with plenty of work going into the weekend.

Best of the rest: Redding strong as Gardner shows potential

Over at the Bonovo Action BMW team, Scott Redding and Garrett Gerloff were also working on tyre management and race pace; Gerloff suffered a technical issue at Turn 1 earlier in the day but got back out, although he was one of only two riders who didn’t improve in the afternoon. Scott Redding said he didn’t know there was a new surface until he arrived to the circuit and that the plan was out of the window when the testing day was put all onto one. However, he went well in the afternoon and was second-best BMW in P7, P8 overall. He was one place ahead of Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) who was P9 come the end of running, whereas teammate Dominique Aegerter was 13th.

Philipp Oettl (GMT94 Yamaha) suffered tech issues in FP1 and was 17th overall, whilst Brad Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) took 20th ahead of Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda) and his teammate Adam Norrodin. Mackenzie crashed at Turn 3, leaving his bike badly damaged although he was able to walk away.

Top six on combined times:

1. Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) 1’28.511s
2. Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.074s
3. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) +0.324s
4. Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) +0.490s
5. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.700s
6. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing) +0.702s

Posted on Tuesday, February 20th, 2024 in News

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