BMW has achieved the scoop of the year in SBK, by securing the services of Toprak Razgatlioglu for next season. The negotiations ended last week and saw Marc Bongers, head of the SBK project for the Monaco manufacturer, personally involved.
For the occasion, we caught up with him at Misano during the production-based championship’s round on the Adriatic Riviera, touching various topics. The starting point was BMW's commitment to SBK.
“BMW believes in Superbike and our analysis of the sector has shown that this is the ideal platform for developing our standard production - he began - We only started this journey in the production-based series a few years ago and as a result we are paying for the previous knowledge of the other manufacturers. However, our company has invested and the economic efforts are confirmation of how important this world is to us".
BMW's dream is to one day win the World Championship…
“To win the World Championship you must first of all be there, in close contact with the top positions. It's not easy, because first of all we need to bridge the gap from the other manufacturers, which have been involved in SBK for much longer. However, we are working hard and in recent years you have seen several new bikes. In the national championships, the M 1000 RR is a high-performing bike and I would like to say one thing about this".
"The SBK paddock is growing rapidly and in my opinion it would be useful to reintroduce a category like Stock1000, where young talent can be developed and raised".
Marc, BMW achieved the scoop of the year with Toprak. You couldn't have done better.
“Toprak is an exceptional rider and we took advantage of the opportunity that came our way. It will be exciting to see him at work with our bike next season, given that we have great faith in a champion like him. In these months we will work hard to develop the bike and then follow all his indications ”.
How long did it take to get Toprak to sign?
“It was a long negotiation with Toprak, given that we had several discussions with his manager. The most important aspect is that he wanted nothing else than our bike, in fact he immediately showed that he was clear and transparent".
What is the most striking aspect of a champion like Razgatlioglu?
“Toprak brings that something extra that great riders have. He's an incredible talent and it's impressive to see him in action. He has an incredible dedication to his working method and never gives up. In some ways, a champion like Roger Federer comes to mind, even if we are talking about different disciplines”
The problem is that BMW now has more bikes than riders.
“Regarding contracts, we cannot make any declarations. I'm sorry, but this is a topic that we will address soon and you will all know about it”.
Among the riders under contract is Scott Redding. BMW has invested heavily for Scott.
“BMW's idea has always been to have a highly competitive team. All our riders want to have strong teammates because it helps improve performance. As soon as we come to a decision on Toprak's teammate, you'll know."
How much did Scott's declarations at the start of the season annoy you?
“Redding is a tough rider who expresses his opinions and I think you all know that, as do we. On this matter, I would like to say that in BMW there are clear rules to be respected in terms of communication".
If the idea is to have a highly competitive team, BMW could therefore continue the journey with Scott, who already knows the bike.
“The reason we took Scott is that he is a very talented rider. We had a good moment with him in the middle of last season, with three consecutive podiums at Most, Magny-Cours and Donington and already at Assen he was very strong on race pace. We have lost him since then, but I want to emphasize that we are still looking for the performance with him even if we are struggling in this respect. Our goal is certainly to keep the strongest rider in our entire line-up".
From a technical point of view, what sort of BMW will we see in 2024? Among other things, Yamaha has decided to enforce Toprak's contract until 30 November.
“First of all, I would like to point out that the entire technical sector reports to the BMW company in Munich and as a result the engineers and technicians are ours. I can't say much about the 2024 BMW, but you can rest assured that we will put Toprak in the best position to express his potential. There will be extensive development work to create a bike capable of enhancing his qualities".
What about the test?
“We will respect what Yamaha has decided. Obviously this aspect will limit our test programme, but we will look for the best possible solution to be ready for the start of the Championship".
Do you think Toprak can win on his debut?
"It won't be easy, but it is our goal and I believe in it."
A couple more comments. Has MotoGP ever interested you?
“No and I say it with great transparency. For BMW, SBK represents the ideal platform”.
Have you spoken to Giannini?
"Let’s go for a coffee (smiles)".