#NLDWorldSBK – April 21st-23rd – Outspoken ahead of Assen

The 2023 season has just started but even at the first European round of the year, 2024 is coming onto the radar
The 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is BACK in action and the Pirelli Dutch Round at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands is shaping up to be a belter. There’s plenty of hype coming into this round; it’s our first chance to catch-up with one rider who has been testing MotoGP™ machinery, an opportunity to speak to a home-hero, the Championship leader and Assen’s most successful rider. This week’s outspoken certainly touches all bases as we look ahead to racing.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “It’s all young riders’ dream to ride a MotoGP™ bike”

“For the MotoGP™ test, I can say I enjoyed it and finally, I rode in good weather, as last year I only did 28 laps due to the weather. Thanks to Yamaha for the opportunity. It’s still a dream but we will see in the future. This is just testing, for me to understand the bike and for Yamaha to see the potential. It’s all young riders’ dream to one day, ride a MotoGP™ bike. I’ve done it, enjoyed it but now I come back and do my job again, because for me, WorldSBK is important this season, to fight again for the Championship. This break was a lot, I was really bored and now I am fighting again. For me, the last two years at Assen, it hasn’t been a good race weekend, especially Race 2. This year, I was thinking not to ride in Race 2, because I always end up crashing! I’ll try again for this year, for the podium or the win. Jonny is always very strong at this track. Every year, this race weekend is different and I’ll try to do my best.”

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): “Toprak’s an incredible talent, he could do a great job”

“I’m excited about Assen. I have a pretty good track record here, it’s a track I enjoy. I rode for a team based just up the road for many years of my career. I don’t know why I work so well here, it’s also a combination with the bike. I know Kawasaki is very strong here as well. While one eye’s on performance, you have to keep an eye on what the weather’s doing. Tough’s a great word. Although we have to try and start from zero and reset, and the results have been pretty poor, we can also draw positives from some of the races we’ve had; steps forward we’ve made with the bike. We haven’t put it all together. We’ve had two tests at Aragon and Barcelona to try a different direction with the bike and to focus on our weaknesses. This season, it’s been overstressing the front and the front tyre especially in the latter stages of races. We showed some good speed in Australia and Indonesia. The speed’s not in doubt, it’s about the longevity in the race. I think here at Assen should suit us especially with cooler conditions. It’s a hard situation to be in. All I know is that Toprak’s an incredible talent and given the right opportunity to go to MotoGP™, with the right people around him, he could do a great job.”

Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “I don’t have a clear of idea about my future… in the case I don’t want to stay, they have to know”

“I look forward to this weekend as I started the year so well. The feeling at the Barcelona test was incredible, I’m very happy. I have good memories at this track as I won with Ducati three times and last year, we were competitive, fighting with Toprak and Jonathan. I haven’t thought about my future because right now, we have only had two races; maybe after this round, I start to think about what I want to do. I am not old, but I have a lot of experience in motorcycle racing. At the moment, it’s not my first worry, I just want to be focused on this weekend. I don’t have a clear of idea about my future. I will decide very soon, not just for me but for my team. In the case I don’t want to stay, they have to know as soon as possible and also for my side. We’ll see, but at the moment, I don’t have an idea. About Toprak, for sure he wants to go to MotoGP™, at least what I heard. It’s a different Championship, different bikes, different tyres… I know he’s doing some tests with the Yamaha, but he has to understand if he has the potential to go there and do well. Otherwise, he has a big name in WorldSBK and he’s an important rider here, so he has to choose, but it’s not an easy decision. Every rider wants to try MotoGP™ at least once, but it’s not easy, now that the category is so close with a gap at almost nothing between first and last. He has to understand if he can also be fast there.”

Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “It’ll be something special if I can get the first win here”

“We are at Assen, it’s a special track for me as I have good memories from the first year in WorldSBK in 2021, so we’ll see what happens this weekend. We hope for good weather, but we’re ready to fight. It’ll be something special if I can get the first win here at Assen; it’ll be hard but for sure, we’ll try. Why not? We’re here after a really good start to the Championship; we’ll try to be fast and fight for the podium. For me, it’s difficult to say about Toprak because I don’t know but maybe for him, it’s interesting to go to MotoGP™ for the future. In my opinion, it doesn’t change anything; we’ll continue to work on my side, together, to be fast and to finish this season in a good way.”

Iker Lecuona (Team HRC): “I think we can fight for top positions”

“I started training and I don’t have any pain; I’ve been training with the practice bike and I don’t feel pain, so this is positive. I am here, ready to fight again. Honestly, I am very happy with the direction; I think we did a very good step with race distance, this is the area we’ve improved a lot because last year, we struggled with the tyre performance as it was dropping a lot in the last laps. Almost every race, we lost this potential to fight for the podium or good results. I am really happy, also the team and Japan have done a very good step so then, the reality is that if the tyre life makes it to the end with a good performance or not, but we are happy. I spoke with my crew chief Pete this morning and we said that I’m very excited, so I need to be calmer; last year, I went fast with the old bike but and got a podium. So, if you put this into 2023 when in Australia, with the improved tyre performance, we overtook Jonny in the last two laps, and the fact it’s a new season, testing went well and I’m excited, I know the package was amazing, so we need to see day by day. I think I am ready; I think we can fight for top positions.”

Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “I want to stay with BMW”

“I’m really happy to be back racing again, especially at Assen. I’m always looking forward to here. Unfortunately, it’s only once a year but it’s nice to be back here at Assen! It was nice to ride again at the test after Indonesia. We had a lot of things to test and, for us, it was to see what direction we have to go for the future. Nothing really decided about what to use here but we had some swingarms. It was all to confirm the direction for the future. I want to stay with BMW for sure. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the results yet like we wanted for different reasons. One reason was my injury which cost us a whole year. I want to improve this project, to start winning with this project, hopefully we can stay together.”