Razgatlioglu’s future announcement comes just weeks after he tested a Yamaha MotoGP bike, fuelling speculation that the Turkish rider could be in line for a grand prix move with the Japanese marque.
It was a test attended by Yamaha senior management, though during the Americas Grand Prix weekend Lin Jarvis suggested Razgatlioglu’s signing would be unlikely.
“The biggest problem I would say for us anyway is whether we have a spot, because ideally… we’ve only got two bikes on the grid, I think it’s difficult for us to get a satellite team on the grid next year,” Jarvis said. “So, we will have two spots only and both of those two spots we will need somebody who is going to be fast straight away, and perhaps Toprak will need more time to get up to speed.”
It’s unlikely at that stage in early April Jarvis’ comments were linked to Razgatlioglu’s recently announced BMW switch. According to one of Motorsport.com’s German colleagues in the WSBK paddock, no offer had been made by BMW at the time of the Barcelona round in early May.
In a Yamaha press release, Razgatlioglu alluded to “a chance” to go to MotoGP – but didn’t feel like the bike suited as much as a Superbike does, and so he has elected to continue in WSBK with BMW.
Just how big that “chance” was is unclear, and probably unlikely. As Jarvis stated, Yamaha probably won’t have a satellite team in 2024 and will need a plug-in-and-play second rider at its factory squad. That’s a seat currently occupied by Franco Morbidelli, who has struggled since stepping up to the factory squad towards the end of 2021. If it won’t be him, Pramac’s Jorge Martin has been linked.
Toprak Razgatlioglu, Pata Yamaha WorldSBK
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Regardless, Razgatlioglu’s decision to stay in WSBK was met with widespread disappointment as a long-asked question has gone unanswered: just how good would he have been in MotoGP?
Most people will back the Turkish superstar and his ability. However, his two-day Jerez test outing with Yamaha didn’t exactly set the world on fire. While two days isn’t exactly a massive amount of time to adjust to a bike that is completely different to what he is used to, ending the test almost a second shy of Yamaha’s test rider Cal Crutchlow (whose programme is generally quite spread out across a year) wasn’t a great job application.
With time, however, there’s no doubting Razgatlioglu’s talent would have seen him figure it out. Unfortunately, it’s time Yamaha doesn’t have, and there’s no guarantee that in 2025 it will gain a satellite squad. Valentino Rossi’s team has been linked numerous times to this role, with the MotoGP legend recent becoming an official brand ambassador. But, given the current form guide in MotoGP, it’s hard to see him being motivated to ditch Ducati (with which his team has won twice already in 2023 and is just one point off the championship lead) for a Yamaha package that is nowhere near title-fit.
Thus, Razgatlioglu’s decision to stay in WSBK, coupled with Yamaha’s current uncertainty over its satellite team situation, may well have shut the door on any WSBK rider making the move to MotoGP for some time.
The last riders to have come over from WSBK to MotoGP full time were Eugene Laverty and Loris Baz in 2015, with the latter lasting the longest through to the end of 2017. Both Baz and Laverty’s best finishes were fourths. Since then, there have only been sporadic appearances from WSBK riders in MotoGP. Lorenzo Savadori did contest a part campaign in 2021 with Aprilia, achieving a best of 14th, but was bounced back into his test rider role when Maverick Vinales was signed.
But the last one to have come over successfully was Crutchlow, who made his MotoGP debut in 2011 with Tech3 after a year in WSBK in 2010 with Yamaha. Crutchlow eventually went on to win three grands prix.
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
For years, six-time WSBK champion Jonathan Rea was linked to a full-time move to MotoGP but turned down several offers. That door has firmly closed, and during his dominance it was thought anyone even thinking about coming to MotoGP had to beat him. Between 2015 and 2020, nobody did, until Razgatlioglu finally dethroned him in 2021. But unless Razgatlioglu proves successful at BMW (and that’s a tough ask), the MotoGP paddock will quickly lose interest.
And if MotoGP loses interest in Razgatlioglu, it’s not going to become enthused by anyone else on that grid. Reigning world champion Alvaro Bautista has already had his time in MotoGP, as has Danilo Petrucci; Rea has made his decision, while Baz’s opportunity has passed.
Michael van der Mark was in something of a similar position to Razgatlioglu and hailed as a potential MotoGP rider. But he failed to do much on his two-race run with Tech3 Yamaha in 2017, finishing outside of the points: 16th in Malaysia, 56.397s off the win, and 52.134s off the victory in 17th in Valencia.
Alex Lowes faired a bit better in his two-race run with Tech3 in 2016, finishing 13th at the British Grand Prix – 40.1s off the win, but only a second behind full-timer Eugene Laverty. Lowes failed to finish the San Marino GP.
Of the current WSBK crop outside of Razgatlioglu, the only viable candidate to have a vague shot at a MotoGP ride is Remy Gardner – who, after one season with Tech3 KTM, was booted out of his seat. But the much shorter WSBK calendar and general bitterness he has about his dismissal by KTM at the end of 2022 has probably altered his own ambitions.
Razgatlioglu could well have been the rider who opened the door again.
But given the general lack of suitable candidates and the dwindling amount of success WSBK riders have had coming to MotoGP – coupled with the groundswell of talent coming up the grand prix ranks now – it’s hard to picture anyone from WSBK being given the opportunity now for the foreseeable future.