Toprak Razgatlioglu showed his fighting spirit during Sunday’s two WorldSBK Championship races at Assen, even if it wasn’t enough to prevent Alvaro Bautista waltzing to three clear wins in the Netherlands.
Third in race one on Saturday, he’d repeat the result in the Superpole Race as he chased home Bautista and Jonathan Rea, the 2021 WorldSBK title winner using the truncated eight-lap race to study his Kawasaki rival in attempts to pose a greater threat to the defending champion in race two.
“After Superpole I spoke with Johnny, ‘why you don’t you try to attack in the Superpole? Because if he’s trying to attack, I’m joining the game! I’m also riding at the limit. But if he (JR) tries some attack, I will join the game.
“Maybe we are fighting for the wins. But he didn’t try. In the second race I said, ‘enough.’ For the first two races I just follow these riders, and I’m not waiting the first laps for the tyre. I just tried to attack.”
To an extent it worked, the Turk upping his game in the final race of the day in an effort to dislodge the dominant Aruba.it Ducati rider from the front. However, after briefly slicing through at Stekkenwaal, a wide exit saw him cede both the lead and second place to Rea too.
With Rea crashing out soon afterwards, Razgatlioglu resumed the chase but would eventually lose touch to finish a distant second, almost four seconds adrift.
“Finally, I tried to attack but half a lap after he passed me again. Anyway, I try my best again in the final race. Especially the beginning, I was pushing 100, maybe 200%. Everybody knows Alvaro is very fast in the last five laps, six laps, but we finished the race in second position this time.”
As the only rider other than Bautista to win a race this season, Razgatlioglu remains the ex-MotoGP rider’s closest title rival, albeit 56 points in arrears.
Aware that his championship bid will need to gather momentum soon, he admits the following event in Barcelona - where Bautista was arguably at his most dominant in 2022 with three comprehensive victories on the Aruba.it Ducati - will be particularly challenging too.
“Now I’m looking at Catalunya because it is very difficult for me, also for all riders, because Alvaro again is really strong. If it starts to rain in Barcelona, maybe we are possibly fighting for the win. We will see.”
CLICK HERE to view 2023 WorldSBK Championship standings after Round 3 of 12 [Assen]