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World Superbike Autodrom Most

Tyre failure dents Razgatlioglu’s WSBK title fightback hopes

Toprak Razgatlioglu’s hopes of mounting a World Superbike title fightback against Alvaro Bautista were severely dented by a rare tyre failure in last weekend’s Most round.

Toprack Razgatlioglu, Alvaro Bautista, Aruba.it Racing Ducati, Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Yamaha rider Razgatlioglu arrived at the Czech track with the momentum of his win at Imola behind him, and he gained further ground in a wet opening race of the weekend by finishing second behind Jonathan Rea while Bautista struggled to 12th.

The Turkish rider then won the Superpole race ahead of Rea and Bautista to narrow the championship deficit to 49 points, and was looking on course to win the finale until suffering a highside crash exiting Turn 2 with six laps to go.

Subsequent analysis showed Razgatlioglu’s rear Pirelli tyre had suffered a rare puncture, leaving him powerless to stay aboard his Yamaha.

“We looked at the tyre and saw two areas where the tyre was damaged,” said Razgatlioglu. “I felt some vibrations in Turns 18 and 19, but I figured it was normal. I’ve never experienced a crash like this.

“Last year I raced with the SC0 tyre and the race distance was the same, and there was no problem. This time we used the SC1 tyre, which is harder, because Pirelli was worried.”

 

Pirelli’s motorcycle racing director Giorgio Barbier noted in a statement that Rea's Kawasaki and the GRT Yamaha of Remy Gardner had also suffered issues with their rear tyres, and pledged to get to the bottom of the issue.

“In WorldSBK Race 2, with the new C0567 rear specification, we recorded three cases of blistering: Rea, Gardner and Razgatlioglu,” said Barbier. 

“For the first two, the blisters were extremely small and had no effect on the performance and race result, whereas in Razgatlioglu’s case, the tyre had two more evident blisters and the telemetry data shows sudden deflation of the tyre. 

“Even if the Yamaha rider’s race pace was extremely high and none of the other riders’ tyres show any signs of stress or wear, these types of episodes clearly must not occur, so we will conduct an in-depth laboratory analysis of the three tyres with blistering to figure out what may have caused it.”

Gardner, who matched his best finish of the season in sixth, said: “I had a similar problem to Toprak, but I was able to finish. There were big holes in the rear tyre.

"We were lucky that the rear tyre didn’t explode. One more lap and the tyre probably would have exploded.”

Up until his puncture, Razgatlioglu was having to defend hard from the Ducati of Bautista with its top speed advantage, but had devised a strategy to keep his rival at bay.

“Because the Ducati is so fast on the straights, I had to come out of the last corner in the lead, or I wouldn’t be able to overtake him in the first corner,” explained Razgatlioglu. "My plan was to be first on the straight and first into the first corner, and it was working well. 

“When I saw I was 0.4s ahead, I rode more calmly and concentrated on setting good lap times. I think I rode really well, but unfortunately the race ended early.”

 

The crash meant Razgatlioglu missed a crucial opportunity to take more points away from Bautista, whose cushion is back out to 74 points with four rounds to go.

“I am upset, but not at my team or with myself, just at the tyre that was the problem,” said the 2021 champion. “But I don’t blame Pirelli because they already supplied harder tyres to deal with the problem. I don’t want to say anything bad about Pirelli; I  was just unlucky. 

“I’m not thinking about the championship, I just want to win races. It looks like the championship won’t be easy, but I’ll do my best every weekend.”

Rea masters conditions to end win drought

Rea meanwhile ended a losing streak dating back to last year’s Phillip Island round with his first win of the season in wet conditions on Saturday.

The Kawasaki rider was one of several riders to use intermediate tyres on a wet-but-drying track, and was able to complete the distance without pitting to change tyres. In the end, Rea prevailed over Razgatlioglu and Danilo Petrucci, who opted for the same strategy.

While delighted to reward his Kawasaki crew with its first win of the season, Rea underlined that his team had the elements to thank rather than any performance breakthrough.

"We have to be careful,” said Rea, whose future at Kawasaki remains in doubt amid speculation he could move to Yamaha in 2024. “I won today because the conditions were strange. It was a race where tyre choice was crucial, and we made the right choice. 

“We should enjoy the moment, but we also have to realise that this is not reality."

 

Those that started on wets suffered as the track dried out, with early leader Axel Bassani only seventh after pitting. Bautista fared even worse, ending up a lowly 12th having run as high as third behind Bassani and Gardner in the early stages.

Bautista started the race down in 14th after having both of his attack laps in Superpole cancelled due to riders crashing ahead of him. The defending champion lost further time with a slow pitstop after switching from rain tyres to slicks, as the brake pads had moved out of place and had to be pushed back into position, costing him nearly 20 seconds.

But the main reason for his poor finish was not starting on intermediate tyres, a tyre he admits that he usually tries to avoid.

“It dried out very quickly, but I’m not usually quick in the wet with intermediates,” said Bautista. “I’m not quick in the dry either, which is why I usually only decide between wet and dry tyres. I’m not sure if we even prepared the intermediate tyre, because I don’t like it.

“It was impressive how fast Jonathan was with the intermediate. I don’t know if he risked everything or if he was just really fast. That surprised me. He has a lot of confidence with this tyre, which I don’t have.”

Bautista led a Ducati 1-2 in the final race ahead of Petrucci, while the podium was completed by Rea in third.

 

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