A stunning first lap from Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) helped the Turk secure his second victory of the 2021 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship. After starting from 13th place Toprak found himself in the lead of the race on just the second lap of the opening race at the Prosecco DOC UK Round at Donington Park.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) led the field away from pole position but it was Razgatlioglu who caught the eye at the start, moving from 13th to fifth by Turn 1 and up to second by the end of Lap 1. It did not take long for Razgatlioglu to take the lead of the race as he passed the six-time Champion on the second lap.
A rare error from Rea on Lap 3 allowed Razgatlioglu to build up a gap of three-seconds ahead of Rea. Razgatlioglu’s victory saw him close the gap to just 15-points in the Championship. Victory for the Turkish star means WorldSBK’s streak of wins coming in pairs continues, a run that started at the start of the 2021 campaign. Rea had looked to close in on Razgatlioglu throughout the race after recovering from his trip through the grass on Lap 3 at Turn 2, but another big moment at Turn 1 meant he lost even more time to the race leader.
Behind the two leaders who had broken away, an epic battle for third was brewing between Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), team-mate Tom Sykes, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). Van der Mark was running in third place and looked to make a move on Rea for second after his trip through the grass, but found the reigning Champion pulling way while Sykes started closing in at the front of the chasing group.
As Sykes closed in on his team-mate, Lowes was on the rear of Sykes’ M 1000 RR as both he and van der Mark searched for BMW’s first podium with the new bike. Lowes made his move at Melbourne Hairpin on Sykes to move up the order, while the two BMWs were battling, with van der Mark falling down the order behind Lowes and Gerloff.
Sykes and van der Mark both gained a position when Gerloff came off his Yamaha YZF R1 at the final corner on his own, with the American able to remount his bike and fight back to finish in seventh. It meant Lowes claimed third place after the titanic battle ahead of the BMW duo of Sykes and van der Mark; with two BMWs finishing inside the top five.
“This one was nice, to first from 13th on the grid on the second lap! Only one time have I done better, from 17th to first in France… today with Yamaha was far more important though. Earlier today for me was not a good start, I was not fast in wet conditions, so I say to myself “ok, if it is raining – I just ride and try to have a good position for the championship”. But I see a small dry line, and I guess all riders put on slick tyres on the grid, but I know I have just one chance. I needed to get a good position for the team’s home race! First corner I got to fifth position, end of lap one I arrive in second and after I say “this is my race!” and I am pushing all laps. Sometimes, I make some small mistakes and feel very close to a crash! But anyway, we made it happen and I am happy! In 2018 and 2019, I was second position here and this is nice but I say I need to win, I never had a win at this track in WorldSBK and also this is very important for the championship. Now the gap is only 15 points from Jonathan but the season is very long and in all races I need to take good points. My team did a great job today and yes, I will try again tomorrow! The weather will be important and maybe tomorrow it will be raining, but I will try to make the best race possible again.”
Jonathan Rea – P2
“I was actually struggling quite a bit to be there at the front. The bike set-up compared to yesterday was not great and I don’t know if there was a lack of grip because the rain washed some tyre rubber out from the track surface. But I struggled to stop the bike and at full lean angle. It wasn’t turning the same. We had a bit of a compromise for set-up but nothing too drastic. Fifteen minutes before the race we were still wondering ‘would it be fully dry, should we use intermediates, or a normal race set-up?’ I got a good start but I was worried about somebody coming underneath me into Turn One because there was only one tiny, tiny dry line. I led the first lap then Toprak came past. After that I got unsighted at the top of the Holly Wood section and really lost the rear, quite aggressively. From that point I was nervous to go off the line and I was having quite a few moments as well because Toprak was riding away but I did not want to give up. I wanted to keep pushing.”
Alex Lowes – P3
“The conditions have been tough all day today. The morning was really wet and I felt quite good then it dried up a little bit for Superpole. It did not feel as good in the less wet conditions but in the race I got a terrible start. I think I was like eighth in the first corner. I have been good at starts this year but on a track like that with such a thin dry line I just had to stay calm. I was quite a bit faster than the guys in front but I just couldn’t get past them. Johnny and Toprak were gone so it was a case from then on to try and win the battle behind them. The rear was spinning quite a lot and I did not feel like I had too much grip, but obviously after the rain that can happen. I am happy with the podium, the first one since Aragon, and I kept a good consistent run, which was nice.”
Tom Sykes – P4
“I am definitely happy that the BMW M 1000 RR was working well in the full wet conditions. In that in-between condition at the beginning of the race, we just struggled to get into it. We could not get the same grip as everyone else but the bike stayed very, very consistent so we were just missing a couple of tenths. We did not have a full dry set-up. Who would have thought that the sun comes out? So we maybe missed out in that respect but fourth position is not too bad. I’m okay with that and obviously we will try to improve tomorrow.”
“Today was not bad. In Superpole, on the wet track, I felt really good and we managed to put both BMWs on the front row. That’s always a good thing. For the race, the track started to slowly dry. My start was quite okay and then I was just trying to find my line. I was making a couple of mistakes going down to Craner Curves, going onto the wet with the slicks so I lost a lot of time there a couple of times. That was a bit of a shame but anyway, there is a lot to improve on the bike for sure for tomorrow but I think we can be satisfied with P5 today.”
Leon Haslam – P6
“This morning was really the first time we’ve ridden in the rain, so I was surprised how easy the lap times came. Having said that, I didn’t make it easy for my team as I then crashed in Superpole, so they did a great job to get the bike ready for the race. The wet gave us the confidence to battle hard, while we know we still have some limitations in the dry. But despite these, we came close to the podium. It was nice to get a strong result and be part of the front group. We still have some areas where we need to improve but we are clear as to what those are. Here, we’re struggling in the stop-start section, the final sector, so if we can find an extra something there, I’m confident we can run two strong races tomorrow.”
Garrett Gerloff – P7
“I want to give my team some good results because they deserve it, and I really wanted to be on the podium today, so it was disappointing to make my way through the field all the way to the top-three just to throw it away. I am happy with how the bike is, the Yamaha R1 works really well around here as Toprak (Razgatlioglu) demonstrated, but I am frustrated with how the day ended. The mixed conditions made things tricky during the race, especially in the first sector, which took a long time to dry out. It became a bit easier when the track finally dried, so I am happy to have stayed on two wheels at least until then. I know that we are fast, tomorrow I want to minimize my mistakes and get to the front. I managed to get acquainted quite quickly with this track; doing my homework before the weekend definitely helped, and learning new circuits is something that I have done a lot of in the last few weeks too, so I guess I was just in the right mindset for it.”’
Alvaro Bautista – P8
“Race conditions were very tricky today, especially in the early stages, as the track dried out. Like everyone else we opted for slick tyres because you could tell the weather was improving. Because I started so far back, I had to be very careful with overtaking early on, because in some sectors there was only a narrow dry line. However, little by little I found good feeling and, in the end, it turned out to be not a bad race, at least in terms of the positions I made up and the data collected. We started the weekend with a different set-up in terms of weight distribution to try and understand a few things but today we ultimately went back to a setting closer to the one we’ve usually used this year. Let’s see what the weather will be like tomorrow. In the very wet conditions we had this morning, I felt OK, so we’ll see what we get.”
Michael Rinaldi – P12
“The race was below our expectations. After the weekend in Misano, we were expecting a better result. I wasn’t able to ride as I wanted to. For sure we have to work to understand why in certain conditions we are not able to find a good feeling. Something is not working and this is quite clear. We will have to understand why and find a solution.”
Eugene Laverty – P13
“In the race, the conditions dried up and unfortunately, while I went with dry tyres we weren’t able to change to the dry setting. So in the end I was riding with a wet suspension setting and it was impossible to do good lap times. That was the maximum I could do today, so hopefully tomorrow it is either clearly wet or clearly dry because when it is like that, there isn’t time to change and it’s a bit difficult for a smaller team like us. But, we start again tomorrow.”
Scott Redding – DNF
“We’re having a really hard time finding the right grip. This is a problem we’ve been carrying around for a while and we definitely need to solve it quickly. I’m usually pretty strong in wet conditions but today I felt like I was skating and couldn’t even defend myself from the overtaking. The crash? I went into the corner feeling the back wheel slipping and the high side was pretty hard.”
Jonas Folger – DNF
“There’s not much to say today. I just didn’t feel right today. Now we have to find out what caused that. We can only hope that it goes better tomorrow.”
Andrea Locatelli – DNF
“I am so sorry for the guys and also for myself because I wanted to make a good result today and I thought it would be possible. The conditions were not so easy when we started the race, and the feeling on the bike was not easy. In the end, after seven laps I crashed because I ran a little wide and arrived at high speed on a section that was not completely dry. Tomorrow we have another chance and I am sorry for the team that they now have to work to build a new bike! It is not normally how we end the day. In qualifying it was difficult in the wet, but also it is still only my first time here in Donington and for sure it is not easy at this track – but we are happy because 11th position is not so bad and maybe tomorrow in the Superpole Race we can try to fight and see what is possible.”
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