World Superbikes: Title rivals Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu exchange barbs after explosive weekend at Portimao
Jonathan Rea fired a stinging riposte to World Superbike Championship leader Toprak Razgatlioglu as the title battle went into overdrive at Portimao in Portugal.
Razgatlioglu celebrated his victory in Saturday’s opening race as he used a brush to ‘clean up’ on the green track limits boundary at Turn 5 – an apparent reference to the protest by Rea’s Kawasaki team after the Superpole race at Magny-Cours in France, when the Pata Yamaha rider lost his race victory after receiving a one-position penalty for marginally running off the track on the last lap. The transgression cost Razgatlioglu his maiden career treble, while Rea was retrospectively awarded the win.
The gesture wasn’t lost on Rea, who ended Saturday’s race in the gravel following a frightening high-speed crash at the final corner as he led Scott Redding and Razgatlioglu.
Reigning champion Rea crashed for a second successive time when he slid out of Sunday’s wet Superpole race, when Razgatlioglu finished sixth to increase his advantage at the top to 49 points.
However, in the final race of the weekend, Razgatlioglu crashed out of second position at the same corner where Rea met his demise in Saturday’s race. It was a cruel twist of fate for the Turkish rider, who came off his Yamaha after his front mudguard worked loose.
Rea – chasing an unparalleled seventh successive title – went on to pocket a maximum 25 points, reducing the gap at the title summit to 24 points with two rounds remaining, and the 34-year-old marked a crucial victory with a burnout at the same part of the track where Razgatlioglu had ‘cleaned up’ with his brush 24 hours earlier.
Asked about the celebration in his post-race interview, Rea provided a brusque answer, saying: “I made it dirty again.”
The championship fight has been conducted with plenty of mutual respect between Rea and his 24-year-old rival for the most part this season, but as a titanic battle for the world crown goes down to the wire, inevitably their relationship has become much less harmonious, with Kawasaki’s protest at Magny-Cours foreshadowing a turning point.
Razgatlioglu, who saw a robust cushion of 49 points halved by Rea in the last action of an explosive weekend in Portugal, later retorted that he hoped he would ‘clean again in Argentina’.
“Okay, after win, I clean, but this was not for Johnny,” Razgatlioglu said, “just for track limits and green… but maybe he understands [it was] for him.
“But also, no problem – I hope I clean again in Argentina.”
The pointed victory celebrations by each of the title protagonists at Portimao have added more fuel to the fire, with the championship gearing up for what promises to be a gripping penultimate round at San Juan in Argentina (October 15-17).
Rea was a double winner at the South American circuit in 2019, while Razgatlioglu finished third in all three races.
Aruba.it Ducati’s Redding also cannot be discounted from the title reckoning after the English rider sealed a trio of runner-up finishes at Portimao. The 28-year-old is now 54 points behind Razgatlioglu.