Toprak Razgatlioglu and ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK could certainly count themselves very satisfied right now after the Turk topped the timesheets on the fourth and final day of testing across Jerez and Portimao.
Having played second fiddle to rookie Nicolo Bulega on the Aruba.it Racing Ducati in the three days prior, Razgatlioglu whipped out two record-breaking laps in Tuesday’s session around the Portuguese circuit to top the final test prior to flying out to Australia for round one of the season.
The 2021 WorldSBK Champion’s defection from Yamaha to BMW is one of the most keenly observed in the paddock ahead of widespread change across the grid.
Indeed, while Razgatlioglu developed an exceptional relationship with Yamaha, his move to BMW was inspired by a desire to get his hands on a still evolving package to see whether he can transform the German marque into title winners for the first time.
While many are understandably holding fire for now on putting bets on Razgatlioglu challenging for Alvaro Bautista’s throne in 2024 (it is testing after all), there is one outstanding bit of data from the two days in Portugal that will make BMW bosses very excited about their investment.
Throttle, brake, turn… repeat
You only have to watch WorldSBK Race 2 at Portimao last year - as Razgatlioglu wrestled tooth and nail against Bautista - to witness quite why the Turk has decided to jump ship from Yamaha.
Indeed, for all of his wizardry on the R1, the ageing package, though certainly nimble in the corners, was left lacking in a straight line compared to the missile that is the Ducati Panigale V4 R.
While many have commented on the Panigale V4 R’s outrageous top speed, it’s worth remembering this claim is something of a misnomer. In fact, the Ducati is pared back a little in terms of top speed (the Honda and BMW were often quicker through the speed traps in 2023) because it allowed for superior acceleration to do much of the hard work at venues with longer straights, much like Portimao.
It’s something Razgatlioglu had worked hard to mitigate on the Yamaha, his aggressive and accurate braking style meaning he is often found squeezing the anchors after the speed trap gun takes its reading. If you look back at Portimao Superpole in 2023, Razgatlioglu was actually quicker in a straight line at the gun than Bautista, a symptom of the Spaniard often having to brake a little earlier to get his bullet under control in time for the lean..
However, in race conditions, the Ducati’s strength was clear to see, despite Razgatlioglu’s last chances on the brakes into Turn 1, with Bautista getting the better runs on him out of the final corner.
The BMW is an absolute missile
While the BMW M 1000 RR hasn’t exactly sparkled in the two seasons it has been with us, it has demonstrated some keen attributes… primarily, it’s power and performance.
It’s a statistic that will have played a part in Razgatlioglu’s decision to join BMW from Yamaha, Razgatlioglu often complaining his R1 was down on power, but the early signs are that choosing the Munich marque has been a shrewd decision.
In fact, a glance down the sector data sheets from Portimao reveal Razgatlioglu is by far and away the quickest rider in a straight line.
Though this can have something to do with where he is braking versus the speed gun, his top speed of 326kph was a massive 6kph more than any other rider during the test, including Bautista.
Better still, it’s a trait shared across the BMW stable with Michael van der Mark, Scott Redding and Garrett Gerloff matching Bulega and Bautista for top speed over the two days.
Excitingly for Razgatlioglu - who made a point of honing his braking style before attempting anything else when he took to the M 1000 RR - he’s carrying the rapid straight line pace through the twisty bits, proving consistently the quickest rider through Sector 2 through Tuesday (NB: The test used only three timed sector points, rather than the four used during race weekends).
It remains to be seen how this will play out in racing practice, but the omens are good.
Indeed, one of the critical issues that affected the BMW M 1000 RR in previous years was an inability to get that strong performance onto the track itself with corner-exit speed an ongoing issue.
However, this was a fault of the Yamaha too, so it’s likely Razgatlioglu has come with some useful intel to help BMW make the most of its attributes.
And it’s worth noting that once up to speed, Razgatlioglu was never once below 315kph in a test where every other rider either exceeded that speed only a couple of occasions or didn’t at all.
We’ve seen what Razgatlioglu can do with a motorcycle when it comes to technical venues - his speciality - but having dodged questions about whether he’d be quick on a Ducati Panigale V4 R, it is very possible that the ROKiT BMW M 1000 RR might actually be the rocket he needs to get the better of Bautista.