Even Alvaro Bautista had Toprak Razgatlioglu down for the Saturday WorldSNK race win at Mandalika, and the more-than-likely outgoing World Champion duly delivered, as he now looks at a potential hat-trick of wins to try and keep the World Championship alive.
The arithmetic is against him, even although he took all big 25 points on offer on Saturday, but as he has said a millions times, winning races is all that really matters, and the rest can take care of itself.
Toprak had race one well under control when he broke the following Rea, and even when Bautista would set a lap time at or slightly better than his. Until of course Toprak made a mistake and ran wide, losing a lot of his advantage.
“In corner seven, the rear was sliding,” explianed Razgatlioglu at the track. “I’m waiting for the rear not to come round. I open the gas and went wide. After, I remember Marc Marquez had a very big crash. In T6, I touched the dirty line.
"After I arrived corner 7 and had to close the gas. The rear was directly sliding. After that, I ride a little bit more calmly. Then I saw the gap again is open with Alvaro. Everybody just one strategy. Try to stay in the line, because the outside is zero grip.”
The most legendary heavy braker of his generation, Razgatlioglu seemed to not have the same issue straying off the very narrow clean line entering some corners at least.
“The passing is no problem, because some corners I know is good passing,” said Razgatlioglu. “But better you ride alone in front. I’m not enjoying that way of riding - I’m bored in the race because I ride alone - but I think tomorrow we will be fighting in the Superpole race. Today, in the early laps, I’m not pushing a lot because I keep a little bit the rear tyre, especially corner 14 right, last sector.
"I don’t eat the tyre. After ten laps, important for me just keep the tyre a little bit. Also, the pace was very nice because all inside the 1’33. Just two 32. I’m happy. This is a good day for me. And it was not easy for everybody because we had very hot conditions.”
Mid 30°C air temperatures were in full effect, with a track temperature approaching 60°C . The races in 2022 are not only highly competitive - if you take out the tracks with massively long straights - and that’s because even the previous World Champion has had to keep finding improvements given the lift in bike and rider performance in 2022.
“I think I am improving because this year Ducati is very strong and Alvaro also, in all the races. We are improving. My bike is not fast in the straight, but I am improving in the corners. Now I ride much better. I think this is why we improve like this, because Ducati is very fast in the straight. We try to catch him in the corner, and we have improved."
Razgatlioglu’s mind-blowing Sup[erpole win and new track best of 1’31.371 would have got him in among the MotoGP bike,s which he joked about wrily.
“I’m ready to do a MotoGP race with a Superbike… No, it’s just one lap. Not possible to do many laps. But also the MotoGP will come here because now track better grip. Now it is more clean. I think in GP you will see good lap times."
One thing that spoiled Toprak’s joy at such a clear if tough win was having Bautista spray him with Prosecco, and following him around the podium ceremony to do so.
“I don't know… I don’t understand him… Also we are in a Muslim country. He is okay to try the champagne, but he follows me. I don’t understand why. I’m listening. Normally, I don’t like the champagne (Prosecco). I don't know.
"Today he lost respect, I think. He said after sorry, but he needs to respect. I love him, but he needs to respect for all guys. I see Johnny. I take my helmet and everything away. I ask Jonny, you celebrate? He said no. He respect. This is very good. He is thinking this. But Alvaro, not respect and he follows me. I not say anything, but looks not nice.
"Yeah, this is alcohol… I don’t take the alcohol. He follows me, also he ‘washes me.’ This is not good. Because I respect him. I go to the back, but he comes with me. I’m not say anything, but he needs sometimes to respect.”
With Sunday still to come Toprak knows this is his best chance of two to maker a triple. “Yeah. I said before. I have just one chance at this track,” stated Razgatlioglu. I try to win three race. Because in Australia, Ducati and Alvaro normally still fast. I know the MotoGP and also Ducati very strong bike. I remember also 2019, I think it’s like Catalunya.
"We keep the rear tyre. Now I know this. I give everything this weekend. Tomorrow we will see. The short race I think will have some big fighting. Last race for a triple win in 2022? I don't know.? We will see again, but I will give everything again.”
Overnight at Lombok Razgatlioglu trails Bautista by 77 points.