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Jonathan Rea may have won the final races at the all-new Mandalika Circuit, but Toprak Razgatlioglu is 2021’s world champ

The special talent to ride a motorcycle that Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx) used to full effect in 2021 to dethrone six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea (KRT) has been evident from his early years in this paddock.

As a factory Superbike rider, he has now marshalled all that talent to an almost unbelievably dramatic and consistent degree, all the way to the World Championship itself. As his team said, their rider’s season has been all but perfect, with his no scores down to technical reasons or interventions from another.

As season finales go, what didn’t we get? Predictability, for starters.

The expected rains on Saturday turned up and brought all their relatives and friends to play mischief with the best-laid plans of the organisers. The waterboarding that tortured the attempted running of the first Indonesian WorldSBK race since 1997 was difficult to describe it was so heavy and relentless.

Race delayed, Indonesian WorldSBK race1

The all-new Mandalika circuit was simply flooded out in the final section, to the point where people could not see the trackside paint under the water. It was better – or not as bad – in other areas but few racetracks, if any, would have put up with this level of deluge for this long without the drainage works crying enough.

It was a tough test of the new circuit’s infrastructure, but probably an unfair one given how quickly the track had to be built to meet the local promoters’ ambitious target of hosting the 2021 WorldSBK finale. But as a layout, as a track design, it was voted top class.

With everybody keyed up and revved up for what could have been the championship decider on Saturday’s first race, the lot of Razgatlioglu improved after a new schedule was announced. The lot of Rea got much harder. With the first full 21-lap race postponed until Sunday, to join the second full race, the short Tissot-Superpole race got canned to make space on Sunday’s schedule.

Indonesian WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea, Indonesian WorldSBK

So instead of a theoretical 62 points for all three wins, Rea could only hope to get 50 at best, which would make his already uphill task of closing the margin of 30 points Razgatlioglu brought to Indonesia with him look impossible.

Rea had been on the back foot from the start, having lost much of the opening free practice session to a tech issue. Razgatlioglu was fastest from the start on Friday and then forced a hot branding iron into the first chapter of the book of Mandalika on Saturday. His third Superpole win of 2021 saw him well over 0.3 seconds up on the previous best of Rea.

Unfortunately, the planned 3 pm showdown of Race One got drowned out, just as the riders headed out on wet tyres. No tyres could have dealt with the storm front that came in across the nearby ocean, so we all had to wait until Sunday to see some Superbike racing.

Race delayed, Indonesian WorldSBK race1

Even on Sunday, with the first race scheduled over the full 21 laps at 11 am, a slight fall of rain caused a red flag and a wet restart protocol to come in. A sighting lap, then back to the grid for final tyre choices, and it was almost time to go but for 20 laps, not 21.

All the riders were on dry tyres, despite residual dampness on track, and from the start it was evident that the big dogs of WorldSBK racing were particularly hungry. Razgatlioglu and Rea were fighting for the title but everybody had their own motivations to shine.

Rea led for the first two laps, then Razgatlioglu got the bit between his teeth to pass, and even privateer Axel Bassani (MotoCorsa Racing Ducati) was messing with the big names like he did in Argentina.

Jonathan Rea, Indonesian WorldSBK 2021

As Rea led again, Bassani passed Razgatlioglu for second on lap five, then led briefly, with the top four riders passing and re-passing as they have done all year.

Redding had started his personal charge from fourth and took the lead on lap 12 when Razgatlioglu ran wide. Rea would not give up and kept with the top two, forcing himself back in front again and finally easing away.

Redding would come under the influence of Razgatlioglu and then be passed by him with just three laps remaining, although their battle had slowed both of them up.

Indonesian WorldSBK

Scott Redding, Indonesian WorldSBK 2021

Rea proved to be just too far away from Razgatlioglu to catch, even if the Turkish rider set the new lap record on lap 19 of the 20. He crossed the line only 0.670 seconds back.

Redding placed third, and in a stroke of tough luck for Bassani the late pace of Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) took him to fourth, with Bassani fifth.

Rea’s determined Race One win was not enough to keep Razgatlioglu away from his new throne. New champ Razgatlioglu celebrated with a quick change act, complete with customised modesty screens, out on track, as his bike, leathers and helmet went through a gilded transformation.

Indonesian WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea, Indonesian WorldSBK

He then sent the enthusiastic and enthralled crowd wild with a rolling burnout or two down pitlane, celebrated with his team, then went to the podium ceremony.

The first new champion since 2015, the first Yamaha champion since Ben Spies in 2009, the showman had lived up to his team’s nickname for him of Top Cat – a 1970s cartoon character.


Toprak Razgatlioglu, World Champion, Indonesian WorldSBK race1, 21 November 2021

Rea salvaged pride and pace in Race One, and in a very different race two he would do so again. Another gigantic fall of rain as the race was in preparation, and the teams got lashed off the startline as the circuit became a semi-submersible again.

It got worse, it got better, it got worse again, but this time around the organisers came around to speak to everyone, desperate to save a final race for all involved at a new venue in the championship’s return to Asia.

We all waited it out and only an hour and 25 minutes later we had a 12-lap Race Two, for full championship points, on a wet track with clearing skies overhead.


Toprak Razgatlioglu, Indonesian WorldSBK race2, 21 November 2021

The second race lasted just 20 minutes and 53 seconds but there was a season’s worth of overtakes in that short time. Again, a top four formed out of the early exchanges, the three big WorldSBK beasts and Bassani, but that quartet soon got caught up by Michael van der Mark, who ploughed his BMW through the standing water.

After Razgatlioglu went on a strange line into the final corner on lap four Bassani and Van der Mark were headed for the same piece of asphalt and they touched. Bassani fell and slid down the edge of the main straight, his bike in the gravel. He gave Van der Mark the finger, but the stewards took no further action.

Axel Bassani, Michael van der Mark and Andrea Locatelli, Indonesian WorldSBK

That really left Rea and Redding to fight – and fight they did – out on the final laps. Redding passed into the lead on the final lap but Rea got him back again at the right time to win, by just 0.283 seconds.

Razgatlioglu was relegated to fourth by the wilful Van der Mark, with the other BMW of Tom Sykes finishing fifth in his last race in WorldSBK.

Rea stopped trackside to put a specially handmade number 65 back on his bike, before riding it noisily into parc ferme.

Jonathan Rea and Scott Redding, Indonesian WorldSBK race 2

It was Razgatlioglu and Yamaha’s season. The tally finished with Razgatlioglu on 564, Rea on 551, Redding 501, Locatelli 291, Rinaldi 282, and Van der Mark 262. A truly classic season, all the way to the end.


Toprak Razgatlioglu, World Champion, Indonesian WorldSBK race1, 21 November 2021