Toprak Razgatlioglu’s Crew Chief, Phil Marron, discusses the 2022 season so far, improving the bike and what’s been missing as Razgatlioglu chases a first win of the season
Reigning Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) is yet to record a victory in the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in the nine races run so far this season. With a “constant progress” working on the Yamaha YZF-R1 this season, Razgatlioglu came close to two victories on the last lap at the Circuito Estoril, in Race 1 and the Tissot Superpole Race, but lost out in last-lap shootouts. In an interview, Crew Chief Phil Marron discussed the 2022 season from his perspective, the evolution of the bike as the season has progressed and more.
After a thrilling 2021 battle with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) which went down to the season-ending Indonesian Round, Razgatlioglu’s title defence has started with eight podiums from nine races but no wins, with the first three rounds held on circuits that he did not win at last year: MotorLand Aragon, the TT Circuit Assen and Circuito Estoril. Marron, who followed Razgatlioglu to Pata Yamaha from Kawasaki Puccetti Racing in 2020, detailed the season so far.
He said: “The first two events were events that we highlighted as not being, let’s say, strong events for us. Firstly, Aragon wasn’t a great track in the past for Yamaha and Assen hasn’t been a great track for Toprak’s style. To be so close to the leaders was actually quite encouraging at those two events. The problem we identified was the final laps with Toprak is when he likes to attack, and he didn’t have the tools to attack. He was just a passenger; he was just watching those guys racing. We made a step for Estoril and gave him what he needed to fight at the front and to ride the bike how he wanted and attack. I would say it’s been progress; it’s been constant progress from the first race in Aragon to the last race in Estoril.”
Razgatlioglu has mentioned front end grip being an issue for him in 2022 with the team working on this throughout the season to allow the 2021 Champion, renowned for his late braking, to brake as late as he wants as he looks to gain on his title rivals. According to Marron, this was more of an issue at Aragon and Assen but it’s something where the team made a “decent step” at Estoril.
Expanding on this topic, Marron said: “That was a bigger issue at the first two races and to allow him to brake as late as he wanted, we were having to rotate the bike out of our normal operating range. This was making the bike heavier to turn. We were able to make small adjustments with riding position to keep him inside the bike more but allow us to use a more normal chassis rotation, which keeps the bike agile, keeps weight on the front and doesn’t destroy the front tyre. We had that in Estoril, so we made a decent step in that area. It’ll be obviously very important to clarify that step we made at another track in hotter conditions as well, which hopefully we’ll get a chance to do in Misano. The braking required in Estoril is completely different to what’s needed at Misano. There’s a lot more braking with angle at Misano so we’ll understand the progress made next weekend.”
In Race 1 during the Estoril Round, Razgatlioglu was leading coming out of the final corner but was beaten to the line by Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) after Razgatlioglu was unable to stop his machine wheelieing, allowing the Spanish rider to claim victory by just 0.126s and deny Razgatlioglu his first win of the season; one of three-last lap deciders at Estoril. Bautista leads the Championship standings after three rounds with a 52-point gap to Razgatlioglu in third.
Explaining how Turn 13, the final corner was an issue throughout the Estoril Round, as well as how the team are looking to reduce the deficit on the straights, Marron said: “Getting off the final turn in Estoril, Turn 13, was one of our issues over the race weekend. Race 1 we were getting off the corner okay, but we were giving away a bit of acceleration due to lack of drive grip on the exit of the last corner. Fortunately, during the post-event test, we got to address that issue and we made some decent steps to help the bike in that area. If we can maximise the acceleration coming off the corner, the speed deficit isn’t as big so that was the focus of the Estoril test, that was one of the main issues. That definitely hurt us in Race 2 with the slightly different conditions. We worked hard on the first morning of that test to address those issues.
“At the first two events, we weren’t in a position to brake as late as Toprak wanted. In Estoril, we improved that area of the bike so whatever he was losing on a straight, he was having to make up on the brakes. By addressing the acceleration issues off a corner, trying to be as clean as we can off the corner, with as little spin as possible, the deficit on the straight isn’t as big. That’s our focus, to try and get out of the corner as cleanly as we can and to give him a bike that will brake as late as he wants and as stable as he can with trying to reduce the risk.”
Look out for part two of the interview with Crew Chief Phil Marron coming out next week!
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