It took the talented 23-year-old Toprak Razgatlioglu one race to win on the Yamaha and he answered questions in three important ways at the Phillip Island WorldSBK opener.
It was a first win for him as a factory rider. His first win in his first Yamaha WorldSBK ride. And a first win for the revised Yamaha R1 that nobody was quite sure had been improved enough to win.
So, questions answered already, even if PI is a kooky track that wears out tyres like they were butter at times.
Both Razgatlioglu and more profoundly his team-mate Michael van der Mark ended up with tyre issues right at the end, but although the Turk’s final corner advantage was almost completely eaten up by no drive and all spin, he held off the closing Alex Lowes by 0.007 seconds. One of the closest finishes in WorldSBK history but they all count.
Razgatlioglu had shown all the speed on his Yamaha from the start but he was struggling by his standards on Friday.
“Today in FP3 I felt much better with the bike,” he said, after good work with his crew chief Phil Marron. “It was turning well and the rear grip was much better. I said to myself that I was ready to race.
“But before the race I was incredibly stressed because this is my first time racing the R1 and as a factory rider. I knew I needed a good early track position and after the start I focused on the race conditions because I knew I had to save the tyres.”
Despite his best efforts, and maybe because of some intense action and rider-to-rider pressure at times in a thriller of a first race, Razgatlioglu ended up with no drive grip at almost the worst possible time.
The last lap was very bad. Lowes was coming very close and maybe he would have won. The bike was sliding at the end and on the final lap I was worried because when I opened the gas it started spinning, not going. It was very close - but I won on the new Yamaha.”
All that remains now is for Toprak to carry on in that winning mould in two races on Sunday, although the motivated Jonathan Rea may have something to say about it all after his nerfing and then crashing in race one. “Tomorrow we will try for a good set-up on the rear tyre,” said Razgatlioglu. “Maybe the ten laps race will be no problem but it is important for the long race.”
Last year Razgatlioglu won races from 16th place on the grid, but at PI he was fourth and that actually added to his pre-race stress.
His ambition is the same as every other rider now he is a factory competitor.
“We are fighting and we will see,” he said. “This is the world championship and all riders are fasts, so it is not easy. My dream is to be world champion and we try.”