The factory Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team has confirmed Toprak Razgatlioglu will once again ride the Yamaha M1 this week as part of a private two-day test in Jerez, sparking renewed speculation that he is being lined up for a promotion from WorldSBK.
It will be the second time the Turkish rider - who clinched the 2021 WorldSBK Championship title on Yamaha machinery - has thrown a leg over the manufacturer’s MotoGP-spec machine after first getting to sample it in June 2022 as a reward for his success the previous year.
However, whereas that was restricted to a single day of track time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and was hampered by poor weather conditions, this time Razgatlioglu will get two full days on the Yamaha M1.
He will be joined at the private test session by Yamaha’s regular development rider Cal Crutchlow.
Yamaha trialling Toprak Razgatlioglu for 2024 MotoGP move?
The news of the test will likely spark fresh talk that Yamaha is grooming Razgatlioglu for a MotoGP seat in 2024.
Razgatlioglu has emerged as a sensation within the WorldSBK ranks in recent years, the 26-year old turning heads with a race-winning turn on privateer Puccetti Kawasaki machinery prior to joining the works-backed Pata Crescent Yamaha team in 2020.
Going on to clinch the WorldSBK title in 2021 - toppling Jonathan Rea from a WorldSBK throne he'd held for six consecutive seasons - the Razgatlioglu was at the time widely tipped to sign a Yamaha MotoGP seat for a 2023 debut. However, with Yamaha's presence on the MotoGP grid whittled down to just its two factory bikes following the defection of RNF Racing to Aprilia, the plans were put on ice.
While talk of a MotoGP deal has cooled in recent months as Razgatlioglu focuses on reclaiming the WorldSBK crown he lost to Alvaro Bautista in 2022, the man himself pointedly reiterates that it remains his target.
"There's nothing to announce yet, but now I have the dream of riding in MotoGP," he told Speedweek. "In 2021 I was Superbike World Champion, now I'm looking at MotoGP. Why shouldn't I try it there?
"As a Yamaha rider, I have the best chance at Yamaha. As of today, they have room for me in the factory team for next year. If that doesn't work, we might look at other teams.”
What are his chances of joining Yamaha in MotoGP?
First and foremost, it should be noted that Yamaha has only a single vacancy in its line-up for 2024 having long since firmed up Fabio Quartararo to the end of next season.
As such, Razgatlioglu is competing for the seat currently held by Franco Morbidelli. On that basis his chances look strong, with Morbidelli - his return to form in Argentina notwithstanding - struggling for results and entirely overshadowed by his title-winning team-mate for a sustained period that stretches right back into 2021.
While the old adage 'you're only as good as your last race' remains true in a sense, it would take something very special over the next few events for Morbidelli to convince Yamaha to retain him. Incidentally, the latest rumours on the mill suggest he is being primed for a switch to WorldSBK next season.
However, Razgatlioglu isn't the only rider in the running for a plum Yamaha factory seat.
According to paddock gossip, the most likely candidate is Jorge Martin, the Spaniard understood to be seeking pastures new in retaliation for being overlooked for the factory Ducati ride in favour of Enea Bastianini. Others in contention for a Yamaha switch include Brad Binder and Marco Bezzecchi.
Alternatively, Razgatlioglu could be placed on a factory-spec satellite Yamaha M1, should the manufacturer source an new partner. However, this won't happen until 2025 at the earliest, according to Yamaha, while such a negotiation would defy the Turk's manager Kenan Sofuoglu, who has insisted upon a factory deal only.