Dethroning the king: Razgatlioglu ends Rea’s streak
Date posted on November 25, 2021
After six years, there is a new WorldSBK Champion after Toprak Razgatlioglu after a season-long battle with rival Jonathan Rea.
After 13 rounds and 35 races of the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, a new Champion has been crowned: Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) is the new World Champion in the fastest production-bike based Championship in the world, ending an historic run by title rival Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), denying the Ulsterman a seventh consecutive crown.
In his second campaign with Yamaha following his switch from Kawasaki Puccetti Racing at the start of the 2020 campaign, WorldSBK’s newest Champion has been in the WorldSBK paddock since his European Superstock 600 days, claiming that title in 2015 before moving to European Superstock 1000 for two years and then WorldSBK in 2018.
Razgatlioglu claimed three wins in his first campaign with Yamaha in 2020 and built on that in the 2021 campaign, with 13 wins in 2021 as well as 28 podiums in 35 races; putting the Turkish star at, or close to the top, of all metrics when compared to other Yamaha riders in WorldSBK. With his success in 2021, he becomes only the second Yamaha rider to be World Champion in WorldSBK, after American Ben Spies in 2009, and the 18th different rider to be crowned in WorldSBK.
Razgatlioglu’s title-winning campaign got underway at MotorLand Aragon with the Turkish star claiming his first podium of the campaign in Race 1 before two further sixth-place finishes started off his season. A week later and WorldSBK hit the Circuito Estoril with Razgatlioglu starting a run of seven races on the rostrum, although the first win of his 2021 campaign would come in the third round of the campaign.
As WorldSBK headed to Italy, Razgatlioglu claimed his first two wins of the campaign at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”, although Rea’s strong start to the season, with four wins in the first nine races, meant Razgatlioglu trailed by 20 points heading into WorldSBK’s return to the United Kingdom; a Round that would provide a major twist in the title race.
A rain-affected Tissot Superpole session meant Razgatlioglu started Race 1 and the Tissot Superpole Race from 13th, but the Turkish start was soon into the lead of Race 1 after an incredible Ayrton Senna-like start, giving him the opportunity to take victory and close the gap to Rea even more. Sunday came at Donington Park and there was a final twist in store as Rea crashed in Race 2 on home soil, finishing in 20th place and out of the points, with Razgatlioglu claimed victory and, with it, the Championship lead for the first time.
Next up was Assen and it was Rea who ended the weekend with the Championship lead after a hat-trick of victories, but the drama was never far away as Razgatlioglu finished in third in Race 1 and the Superpole Race before a DNF from Race 2 after Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) crashed into the Turkish star at Turn 1 on Lap 1; Rea’s victory and Razgatlioglu’s non-score taking the Championship lead to 37 points.
Two new circuits provided new challenges as August came around with the Autodrom Most marking the return of the Czech Round and the Circuito de Navarra holding the Navarra Round for the first time. Razgatlioglu responded from the Assen disappointment with podiums in all six races at the two new venues, including three victories; an incredible last-lap battle with Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) one of many incredible moments throughout the 2021 campaign. Race 1 was also the second race Rea had crashed out of and, while he retained the Championship lead, the gap was reduced to three points after Most. Results at Navarra meant the pair left the first-ever Navarra Round tied on 311 points; a sign of how tight the title fight would be after more incredible battles throughout the weekend.
Familiar territory returned when WorldSBK headed to Magny-Cours in an earlier-than-usual September date, with Razgatlioglu taking two victories and Rea one; but it was not as simple as that. Razgatlioglu thought he had taken his first WorldSBK hat-trick but, after Race 2, it was announced he would be demoted one place in the Superpole Race for exceeding track limits following a protest from Kawasaki. After the dramatic events in France, the gap was just seven points heading into a triple header at Catalunya, Jerez and Portimao.
Rain came down ahead of Race 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but Razgatlioglu was able to show rapid pace before a technical issue forced him out of the race from the lead, just the latest in a series of twists in the Championship fight. A tragic Jerez weekend followed just a week later, following the sad passing of WorldSSP300 rider Dean Berta Viñales, with Razgatlioglu claiming two wins out of two after the cancellation of the Superpole Race. Portimao marked the end of the triple header and it proved to be a rollercoaster weekend at a circuit affectionately known as the rollercoaster. Rea suffered from two crashes in Race 1 and the Superpole Race, scoring no points at a circuit he has had so much success at until Race 2 victory while Razgatlioglu claimed a hard-fought Race 1 win before sixth place in the Superpole Race, held in wet conditions. In Race 2, it was Razgatlioglu’s turn to have a crash in Portimao. In the space of a few hours, Razgatlioglu’s lead went from 49 points to 24 with two rounds remaining.
At the penultimate round in Argentina, Razgatlioglu was able to extend his title lead back up to 30 points following two more wins although Rea was able to beat Razgatlioglu in Race 2, ensuring the gap did not increase further. The duo battled hard at San Juan, returning to the calendar, a theme that has occurred throughout the entire 2021 season. With the results in Argentina, the title was guaranteed a spectacular finish in Indonesia.
The title was decided in Race 1 at the brand new Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit after an epic three-way fight between the top three in the Championship that raged on for all 20 laps. Despite Rea’s victory, Razgatlioglu came home in second place which was enough for him to end Rea’s run of titles and become the 2021 World Champion.
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