World Superbikes: Rea’s record reign ends as Razgatlioglu rivalry set to be renewed in 2022

The rivalry between Rea and Razgatlioglu has been largely healthy, based on mutual respect

The battle for the 2021 World Superbike crown will be remembered for a long time by motorcycle racing fans around the world.

Six-time champion Jonathan Rea started the year as a favorite to extend his streak of successive titles, but as the story of the season unfolded, thrilling chapter after chapter, it became clear that the championship turned into a two-horse race.

Where Spaniard Alvaro Bautista had flattered himself to cheat in his attempt to dethrone the Northern Irishman in 2019 and Scott Redding failed in 2020, Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu turned out to be the real deal by winning his first title in of the final in Indonesia.

The race to emerge as the best dog has been tight throughout, momentum comes and goes, one runner looking to gain the upper hand, only for the other to respond and work their way back into the race for the victory of the series.

While other riders have proven themselves capable of winning races on any given day, none have come up with a sustained challenge against Rea’s dominance over Kawasaki or its main challenger.

Ducati’s main flag bearer Redding threatened to join the title race but, in the end, couldn’t get close to his two opponents.

With thrilling battles scattered throughout an exciting campaign, this championship will be savored to deliver some of the most thrilling races for many years in a series that even fans of Rea’s hegemony would admit was in danger. to become more than a little mundane.

Rea ‘down but not out’

For a fierce and extremely successful competitor like Rea, having to part ways with his title after six years of record-breaking feats is going to be worrying.

The 34-year-old paid the price for a series of unusual mistakes that led to crashes during the British round at Donington Park, Most in the Czech Republic and Portimao in Portugal as he struggled to keep pace with his rival Yamaha. .

Rea’s cause was not helped by the imposition of a significant rev limit on his Kawasaki just before the start of the season – a setback that surprised the Japanese manufacturer and its rider.

On the bright side, the County Antrim man has proven he can take on Razgatlioglu and win races, with his formidable opponent leading him to take his performances to new levels and show determination and mental toughness.

Rea’s fighting qualities and determination got the upper hand as he was able to mix it up with the Turk in some fairly aggressive clash and barge fights on the track, repeatedly reverting to his rival when he threatened to extend his points to an unassailable margin. .

Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea
Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea both won 13 races in an exciting 2021 season

The defending champion arguably rode better than ever, forced to raise his level of play and push himself and his machine to the limit – and sometimes beyond to make up for an obvious disadvantage in straight-line speed.

In many ways, it was reminiscent of Rea’s pre-Kawasaki days when he performed heroic feats for Honda as the perpetual underdog on slower machines – demonstrations that caught his current employer in the first place.

Rea’s achievements in 2021 include breaking the 100-victory mark in Round 1 in Aragon, securing his 200th podium in the Czech Republic, a total of 13 wins – the same number as the future champion – and a record of eight consecutive pole positions, a new record in the 33-year history of the championship.

Plenty of evidence, if needed, that Ulsterman’s abilities are not waning, but rather still a force to be reckoned with.

Toprak makes his title dream come true

This year will be considered as the year in which Razgatlioglu came of age and announced himself as a major player in the global motorcycling scene.

The 25-year-old has been a figure of calm throughout his season-long run with Rea, his unmistakable ability paired with an unflappable nature that has served him well in the heat of the moment.

The former European Superstock 600cc champion refused to bow under the pressure of being the leader in the later stages. The only three races he failed to complete were all out of his control – two for technical issues and one when she was knocked out by American Garrett Gerloff at Assen.

Razgatlioglu’s uncompromising style mirrors that of his mentor and compatriot, five-time Supersport World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu, and his success on a Yamaha R1 is not much different from one who finished seconds away from every race there is. is two years old.

The new champion followed Rea’s lead in terms of professionalism and discipline in off-piste preparation and overcame the setbacks of being downgraded – and twice deducting points – snags that would have potentially demoralized characters from lesser importance.

Razgatlioglu is tipped for a future stint in MotoGP, but will spend at least one more year in the World Superbike paddock to defend his title with the Pata Yamaha team.

Razgatlioglu finished the season 13 points ahead of his closest rival Rea
Razgatlioglu finished the season 13 points ahead of his closest rival Rea

The same thing in 2022?

The good news is that fans of the two-wheeled world series may rightly have high expectations for more of the same next year, as the two main protagonists in 2021 are set to renew their rivalry.

Rea’s motivation to further improve his driving and regain first place promises to make him an even more dangerous opponent.

From the manufacturer’s point of view, Rea stressed the need for Kawasaki to further improve its ZX-10 RR and try to come back with a stronger package for next season.

“We have to improve our acceleration and speed, work on our weak points and try to learn from our mistakes,” observed Rea after finishing his year with a double victory at the Mandalika circuit in Indonesia.

This potential straight-line speed improvement should allow Rea to compete on a level playing field with Ducatis and Yamaha in particular.

Given the extent of dominance they have shown this season, at this point it seems unlikely that any other true challengers for the WSB crown will emerge from the pursuit squad.

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