Toprak Razgatlioglu feeling heat in Rea title fight
Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu admits he is ‘feeling stressed’ as he battles with six-time champion Jonathan Rea with the World Superbike title at stake.
The Turkish rider has been linked with a move to MotoGP in 2022 with the Petronas Yamaha team, but Razgatlioglu says he would only make the switch if he is crowned Superbike champion this season.
On Friday, the 24-year-old was second fastest overall in free practice at Navarra in northern Spain, 0.123s behind his Kawasaki rival.
Rea leads the title race by only three points after the halfway point of the championship, with the Ulsterman’s 37-point lead slashed in the previous round at Most in the Czech Republic.
Rea crashed out of race one, while Razgatlioglu clinched a double and a runner-up finish to take full advantage.
The 24-year-old is surprised to be so close to the reigning champion, but Razgatlioglu says he is ‘excited’ by the challenge.
“This season, I am very surprised because it’s the first time I’ve been very close to Jonny,” he said.
“I’m feeling a little bit stressed. After the Assen race, I said the Championship is finished but now I’ve come back again. I don’t know because now I’m always focused on every race and getting the best position.
“I try to win every race, but this season hasn’t been easy for me because Jonny is very strong, but also Jonny this year has made mistakes.
“I don’t know because there are many races to go. I am excited,” added Razgatlioglu.
“For me, Jonny is very special. In 2016 and 2017, he was helping me every race because I ride with the same brand as him. In 2018, he helped every race weekend. “For me, he’s a very special guy and I always respect him. I know he’s very strong.
“I am always focused on every race to win because I’m not looking at the Championship. It’s better for me to focus on every race.”
Rea has overcome all obstacles since his move to Kawasaki in 2015 to win the world crown in six successive seasons.
He is characteristically calm as he assesses the title fight with Razgatlioglu, who is the latest pretender to Rea’s throne.
“I’ll do the best I can, but I will try to manage myself a little bit better because I made a few mistakes that I shouldn’t have made, so I’ll learn from that and move on,” Rea said.
“It’s just up to me to focus on myself. I know we have a winning bike on our side of the garage and when things are right, we can go out and win.
“I’ve won a lot of races this season and we still lead the championship after the halfway point, so I think it’s all to play for.
“It’s exciting to have that rivalry and to have strong riders to race against, because when you win it makes it more special and you feel better. But equally when you don’t win, you want to go away, work hard and try and get back on the top step.”
Race one on Saturday is scheduled for 13:00 BST with the Superpole (10:00 BST) and second full-distance races (13:00 BST) taking place on Sunday.
In the British Superbike Championship, Andrew Irwin was sixth fastest in free practice at Cadwell Park on the SYNETIQ BMQ, narrowly ahead of older brother and Honda Racing rider Glenn in seventh.
Both of the Carrickfergus brothers finished on the rostrum in race three last weekend at Donington Park.
The first BSB race on Saturday is due at 5pm, with Sunday’s races scheduled for 14:10pm and 4.45pm.