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Imola WorldSBK Race 2 | Ruthless Razgatlioglu denies Bassani; Bautista DNF, Ray 6th

Gold & Goose
Toprak Razgatlioglu x, Pata Yamaha, Yamaha R1, 2023 WorldSBK, Imola, action [credit/ Gold & Goose]

Toprak Razgatlioglu became the first rider other than Alvaro Bautista to achieve victory in a full-length WorldSBK race this season after the runaway points' leader uncharacteristically crashed out of the lead on the opening lap at Imola.

His early exit paved the way for Razgatlioglu to collect his fourth WorldSBK win of the season, but the first to be achieved in a full-length, 25-point maximum encounter.

Not that Razgatlioglu - also the only rider to win a race other than Bautista this season - had things his own way, the Turk forced to fight hard in a pulsating battle for the lead with privateer Axel Bassani that very nearly went the way of the young Italian.


Arguably the most exciting - or at least, most competitive - race of the season, fans holding out in the extreme heatwave temperatures of southern Europe right now were treated to a reminder of what a WorldSBK race looked like without Bautista galloping away to victory.

Indeed, despite having to play second fiddle to Razgatlioglu in a thrilling Superpole Race earlier in the day, with his 100% winning record in full-length races this season, the odds were still looking good for Bautista to get that record-breaking 19th win on Ducati's home turf.

Having had to work hard in the opening two races of the weekend after leisurely starts, Bautista finally got the best getaway from the front row to secure the hole-shot into Tamburello.

However, his race would last just a few metres more when his Aruba.it Ducati folded as he leaned into the right-hand part of the complex, Bautista exiting stage left into only his second DNF of the year.

Axel Bassani, Motocorsa Racing, Ducati Panigale V4 R, 2023 WorldSBK, Imola, action [credit - Gold & Goose]

Battling Bassani being out best in Razgatlioglu

His dramatic exit suddenly opened up a wave of new potential outcomes, in what now seemed like a remarkably open race.

Even so, following his superb fightback against Bautista in the Superpole Race, it would be have been a brave person to put a bet on anyone other than Razgatlioglu taking full advantage, not least because he now led having also taken advantage of Andrea Locatelli easing up to avoid collecting Bautista.

And yet, as the race - shortened from 19 to 15 laps on account of the excessive temperatures - unfolded, the prospect of an upset began to take shape as Bassani steadily fought his way back into contention.

The Italian had been considered something of a dark horse on the Motocorsa Ducati after impressing in practice and scoring a front row starting position. However, after dropping back in both Race 1 and the Superpole Race - leaving him sixth on the grid for Race 2 - it seemed his threat had already been eliminated.

Instead, he was a big beneficiary in the kerfuffle of Bautista's crash having ascended to fourth, before pulling off a crucial double overtake on Jonathan Rea and Andrea Locatelli for second on lap three after the Kawasaki and Yamaha riders stumbled out of Variante Bassa to open the door for him.


>>> 2023 WorldSBK Championship Standings <<<

In clear air, Bassani was now able to show his pace around his home circuit and, making the most of the shorter race distance, demonstrated his own homage to Razgatlioglu's flamboyant riding style as he broke down a plus-second gap to the Turk up front.

If Bautista's exit made Razgatlioglu believe he'd have it easier, he would be wrong, with Bassani clawing himself back into contention and climbing all over the back of the Yamaha.


With Razgatlioglu's strength on the brakes making him hard to out-fox into most corners, Bassani instead launched an audacious - but clean - lunge into Tosa on lap eight, one that seemed to surprise the 2021 WorldSBK Champion into submission.

Lifting Bassani into the lead, the Italian got his head down in a determined effort to break away from Razgatlioglu.

A rider that has shown on occasion to work his tyres harder than most, thus losing him ground late on, the shorter race distance therefore gave Bassani a chance to hold on and it is credit to the Italian that it forced Razgatlioglu to get creative to keep up with the Motocorsa Racing rider.

Towards the end, however, the tide of momentum began to shift as Bassani's rear began to slide, bringing Razgatlioglu back onto his tail.

Even so, Bassani wasn't making it easy and it would take Razgatlioglu to wedge his Yamaha up the inside at Rivazza 1 for him to reclaim the lead. Though Bassani replied by slipping back past into the ensuing Rivazza 2, Razgatlioglu's superior exit gave him the drive up the hill to nose ahead again.

From here, Bassani's battling efforts wilted as he settled for the runners-up spot, releasing Razgatlioglu to claim a full 25 points for the first time this year. The first significant dent he has managed to make into Bautista's huge series lead, the gap between them now stands at 70 points.

Though denied a fairytale maiden win for himself and the minnow Motocorsa team - arguably one of the smaller teams, even among the privateer efforts - Bassani equalled his career-best finish with second place.

Bradley Ray, Motoxracing, Yamaha R1, 2023 WorldSBK, Imola, action [credit - Gold & Goose]

Brad Ray bounces back for huge personal best

Jonathan Rea collected third, the Kawasaki rider in the mix with the leaders for the first half of the race before dropping back, while Locatelli completed a fruitful weekend with another fourth and Michael Ruben Rinaldi settled for fifth.

In sixth place, Bradley Ray produced a stunning performance to secure a huge personal best result in WorldSBK for both himself and his Motoxracing Yamaha team.

The Englishman has shown impressive pace over a single lap this weekend, but despite starting sixth in Race 1 and the Superpole Race, tyre issues in the first and an off in the second had left him with just a 15th place finish and a single point to show for his efforts so far.

It also placed him further back on the grid for Race 2 in tenth, yet a strong start saw him cling onto the back of an the eight-strong lead pack initially, before a pass on Scott Redding and a crash ahead for Alex Lowes elevated him to sixth at the flag.

Loris Baz also caught and passed Redding late on for the honour of being the top BMW rider once again in seventh, with the Briton settling for eighth, ahead of Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona, the latter notching up his first top ten for Honda since Misano.

With neither GYTR GRT Yamaha riders able to match the pace of fellow satellite counterpart Ray all weekend, Remy Gardner and Dominique Aegerter had to make do with 11th and 12th in Race 2, with Garrett Gerloff, Xavi Vierge and Philipp Oettl rounding out the top fifteen to collect the final points.

Imola WorldSBK | Race 2 Results

2023 Italian WorldSBK | Imola | Race 2 Results | Round 7 of 12
1Toprak RazgatliogluTURPata Crescent RacingYamaha R115 Laps
2Axel BassaniITAMotocorsa RacingDucati Panigale V4 R+1.966
3Jonathan ReaGBRKawasaki Racing TeamKawasaki ZX-10RR+2.458
4Andrea LocatelliITAPata Crescent RacingYamaha R1+6.111
5Michael Ruben RinaldiITAAruba DucatiDucati Panigale V4 R+11.154
6Bradley RayGBRMotoxracingYamaha R1+12.210
7Loris BazFRABonovo RacingBMW M 1000 RR+13.319
8Scott ReddingGBRBMW Motorrad WorldSBKBMW M 1000 RR+13.775
9Danilo PetrucciITABarni Spark RacingDucati Panigale V4 R+19.122
10Iker LecuonaESPTeam HRCHonda CBR1000RR-R+22.770
11Remy GardnerAUSGYTR GRTYamaha R1+23.214
12Dominique AegerterCHEGYTR GRTYamaha R1+25.082
13Garrett GerloffUSABonovo RacingBMW M 1000 RR+25.179
14Xavi ViergeESPTeam HRCHonda CBR1000RR-R+25.199
15Philipp OettlGERGo ElevenDucati Panigale V4 R+31.141
16Lorenzo BaldassarriITAGMT 94Yamaha R1+31.297
17Gabriele RuiuITAB-Max RacingBMW M 1000 RR+44.753
18Roberto TamburiniITAMIE RacingHonda CBR1000RR-R+45.863
19Eric GranadoBRAMIE RacingHonda CBR1000RR-R+46.910
20Alex LowesGBRKawasaki Racing TeamKawasaki ZX-10RR+5.219
DNFIsaac VinalesESPTPR by Vinales RacingKawasaki ZX-10RR
DNFOliver KonigCZEOrelac RacingKawasaki ZX-10RR
DNFLeon HaslamGBRBMW Motorrad WorldSBKBMW M 1000 RR
DNFTito RabatESPPuccetti RacingKawasaki ZX-10RR
DNFAlvaro BautistaESPAruba DucatiDucati Panigale V4 R

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