Toprak Razgatlioglu (BMW M-1000RR) on the way to immortality. What might still be a long way off for his former arch-rival Jonathan Rea, the exceptional talent from Turkey achieved in the fourth race for the BMW factory team. Now he is in the same league as Troy Corser, who also achieved the feat of winning on three different makes.

The historic first Toprak victory for BMW brought salvation

While Jonathan Rea endured another bitter day, his Turkish opponent managed the almost impossible in Catalonia. For the Northern Irishman, the first race in Barcelona ended in the first corner, meaning the record world champion remained without points for the fourth time in a row. Completely different was Toprak, who initially decisively took the lead from pole position. But after a few laps, what many neutral fans had already feared happened. First Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team Ducati), who fell shortly afterwards, and a little later Niccolo Bulega on the Ducati passed Toprak seemingly unassailable in the fifth of 20 laps, only to pull away more and more clearly from lap to lap. His brand colleague Andrea “The Maniac” Iannone from the private GoEleven team also overtook the Turk, but he didn’t allow himself to be distanced from the Italian for the time being. Meanwhile, from far behind, Bulega’s teammate Bautista, as expected, continued to work his way forward until he was even able to catch up and overtake Iannone. Razgatlioglu, on the other hand, had already caught the man with number 29 again and was getting threateningly closer to the man who had been the lonely leader for a long time.

Gravel bed expert Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team Ducati Panigale V4R) led on the third and fourth laps before the twin brother of Kawasaki ace Alex ended his sensational run for Marc van der Straaten’s new team early with a crash in turn 10. After that, the path to Bulega’s second win of the season seemed clear, but the reigning WSSP World Champion had not expected Toprak.

Bautista beaten after 6 wins in a row despite catching up – Bulega pays the lesson

Apparently Bulega had put too much strain on his tires from the second third of the race onwards, which caused a sensation on the last lap and Toprak was ultimately able to overtake the opening winner of race 1 in Australia. The historic first victory for BMW at the Circuito de Cataluña was a fact and brought the long-awaited redemption for the Bavarian brand. The German brand had been waiting for this moment since Michael van der Mark’s Sprint-Race victory on a wet track in Portugal 2021, and thanks to its persistence and constant developments, as well as the exceptional expert from Alanya, this feat was achieved on the course where it was least expected. However, Ducati remains the brand to beat in Montmeló and the result of the Superpole race on Sunday morning will probably be decisive for the second race over the full distance. Thanks to an unexpectedly bad Superpole and a penalty for slow speed, Bautista only started the race from 14th place on the grid. In the Tissot Sprint Race it will be position 11 and so he still has the chance to move into one of the front two rows in this race if the Spaniard makes it into the top six.

Our summary of the results from the European opener in Barcelona, with a historic result for Toprak and BMW. Without the exceptional talent, it would undoubtedly have become the next Ducati festival, after Bautista won all the races at will in the previous two years.

Expected setback from Australia winner Lowes – Rea at rock bottom

We had already warned in advance against premature joy at Phillip Island overall winner Alex Lowes (Kawasaki ZX-10RR)’s championship lead. The fast Englishman from Lincoln did everything right and divided his race cleverly, which meant that at the finish he only had the exceptional expert and winner Toprak and Andrea Locatelli right in front of him, along with three Ducatis. Thanks to second place, Bulega moved past him by one point and Alex is no longer the leader in the intermediate rankings after just one race. There is of course a risk that he will lose further ground on Sunday, with Toprak and Bautista still 17 points behind Lowes after race 1. The Kawasaki ace probably has the best chance in the Tissot Sprint Race on Sunday morning, firstly to score as many points as possible and secondly to improve his current seventh starting position. However, compared to his long-time teammate, Alex can’t complain. The fourth zero for Yamaha newcomer Jonathan Rea is just another low blow, after a catastrophic start to the season and, with 2023, the worst season in many years.

Our shot of turns 10 and 11 (in the background), as well as the long twelfth of 14 corners of the Circuito de Cataluña. To the left of the Acerbis advertising is the so-called VIP grandstand, from which numerous falls and crucial overtaking maneuvers can often be observed up close. Sam Lowes’ race on Saturday also came to a premature end at this point when he landed in the gravel trap in turn 10.

Australia’s history seems to be repeating itself

As on the very fast course at Phillip Island, Saturday’s race in Barcelona looked like a two-class society. As expected in advance, the Ducati riders on the Panigale V4R were vastly superior to the competition from Yamaha and Kawasaki with a maximum speed of 900 or 1000 rpm higher on the straights, as in previous years. Only BMW and Honda can keep up in these sections with only half the disadvantage (maximum speed 600 or 500 rpm lower). The Ducati competition feels like it has been tricked once again by FIM and Dorna, despite the minimum weight introduced in 2024, as the Ducati was still allowed to rev 500 rpm less at the end of 2023. There are many indications that at most one of the Ducati riders can challenge the defending champions from Spain for their third world championship in a row this season. The only exception to this may be Toprak, provided that its BMW 1000-RR does not repeatedly lack stability in the future, as was the case in the second round in Australia.

Alvaro Bautista in front of Ducati brand colleague Andrea Iannone and the two Yamahas of Andrea Locatelli and Remy Gardner. As in the previous two years, the impression of a two-class society emerged, especially on the start-finish straight of the Circuito de Cataluña, which was over a kilometer long.

The winners and losers of the first WorldSBK round in Barcelona

In addition to the three men on the podium, the former MotoGP rider Andrea Iannone was clearly the most successful rider in the first run. “The Maniac” is not only the best-placed private driver at the moment, but with fifth place and only one point behind Bautista and Toprak, the Italian can confidently be counted among the favorites for the title. Andrea Locatelli on the best Yamaha actually had the podium as his goal, but on tracks like Barcelona he is at a significant disadvantage in terms of acceleration and top speed, even compared to the private Ducatis. In this respect, he has to be counted as fifth and clearly one of the winners. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) in sixth and Dominique Aegerter on the second fastest Yamaha with P8 kept the damage limited and showed an appealing performance. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team Ducat), on the other hand, is clearly one of the losers on Saturday with 7th place, as is Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in only fifteenth place and Michal van der Mark with P9. The latter was temporarily in 4th position, “Petrux” was in P5 shortly after Rennmite and the Australian briefly appeared in the top seven at the end of the first quarter of the race before he also lost a lot of ground.

Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Honda CBR1000 RR-R) chasing Bradley Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) and Philipp Oettl (GMT94 Yamaha), both of whom he was able to defeat during the race. Even though the fast Englishman narrowly missed out on his first championship point with 16th place, he definitely has to be counted among the winners (© Petronas MIE Racing Honda).
Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha Yamaha YZF R1) was again the unlucky driver of the day after his debacle in Australia. The Northern Irishman is likely to have no chance of winning the title for the third time in a row this year. Sadly, it currently looks as if the likeable record world champion’s time has finally come to an end.

The first European race of WorldSSP

Until the middle of the race it looked as if the 2017 world champion could fight for victory on a Yamaha. But Lucas Mahias (GMT94 Yamaha), as the most experienced pilot in the field together with Raffaele de Rosa (QJMOTOR Factory Racing), luck was not on his side on March 23, 2024. Like Sam Lowes in the WSBK, the Frenchman fell out in turn 10 and the little Italian stopped a short time later with a technical problem on his Chinese QJMOTOR SRK 800 RR. Only Stefano Manzi (Pata Yamaha Ten Kate Racing) was able to halfway follow the leader Adrian Huertas on his factory Ducati, while Marcel Schrötter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) initially lost too much ground to the leading group to still be seriously fighting for victory in the end wanting to have a say. Nevertheless, the German can be proud of himself after his third podium finish in a row and in the interim ranking he is only 9 points behind leader Manzi, and his lead over the winner in the first race in Catalonia is just as big. Just like in WorldSBK, the factory Ducati is also favored for Sunday, but Huertas still needs to make up for the deficit he lost in the first race of the season to take the lead in the World Championship.

Marcel Schrötter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) ahead of Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team Ducati) and Valentin Debise (Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha Team). The German once again showed a typical comeback, and he may now only need one win to completely untie the knot and be at the forefront of the world championship title fight.
Our summary of the results from the middle class European opener in Barcelona, with an unsurprising victory for Ducati factory rider Adrian Huertas from Spain. Neutral observers cannot shake the feeling that FIM and Dorna have been doing everything they can to favor the Italian brand in recent years. The WorldSBK and WSSP World Championships clearly underline this last year, when Bautista and Bulega won almost at will.
Route sketch of the Circuito de Cataluña in Montmeló near Barcelona, with a straight that is much too long for the Ducati competition, similar to that in Portimão. Here, the machines from Kawasaki and Yamaha in particular lose valuable tenths on each lap due to their low permitted maximum speed of barely over 15,000 rpm on the 4,657 kilometer long course with 8 right-hand and 6 left-hand corners.

Season premiere for the WorldSSP 300 with Dutch winner

For the Freudenberg KTM-PALIGO Racing, joy and sorrow were truly close together in the first race of the season. While their young German driver Philipp Tonn didn’t even complete the first lap, his teammate Jeffrey Buis ended up on top of the podium. However, the young Dutchman only crossed the finish line in second place behind Inizio Iglesias Bravo. But the Spaniard had three seconds added to his time after the race because he had not completed his long lap penalty. At the end of the day, the Fusport-RT Motorsport by SKM-Kawasaki driver only finished thirteenth and only received 3 instead of 25 points. He was also not the only driver penalized after the race. The Italians Gennai and Bartolini, as well as the Dutchman Buman, suffered the same fate. As is so often the case, the junior category was the race with the most retirements on Saturday, with Superpole fastest Julio Garcia Gonzalez also caught on the Chinese Kove 321RR. After he had to start from fourth place on the grid instead of pole position due to dangerous driving, a technical problem put him out of action after just 5 minutes.

The WorldSSP 300 pack with Jeffrey Buis (Freudenberg KTM-PALIGO Racing, number 1) in front on the right and the Czech Petr Svoboda on the right behind with the 53, who was only 0.187 seconds short of the podium at the finish. Bruno Ieracci (Team ProDina Kawasaki) with the number 8 fell out after one lap and the number 91 on the left with Matteo Vannucci (Pata Yamaha AG Motorsport Italia) ended up with two points in P14.
Our shot from the pedestrian bridge from the paddock to the so-called VIP grandstand in the background on the right. Definitely one of the most popular places among visitors, as it offers a very good view of the last combination of curves before the start and finish.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK).