Subscriber Feature: Long Live The King - A Look Back At Kenan Sofuoglu's Unmatched Supersport Reign

Kenan Sofuoglu bowed out of competition at Imola and afterwards he recounted his career to Steve English for MotoMatters.com

Five world championships, 43 WorldSSP victories and 85 podiums in the class are the records that Kenan Sofuoglu will leave on the World Supersport class, but the mark he leaves is indelible. The Turkish superstar retired from racing at the recent Imola WorldSBK round and afterwards said that it was a family decision to step away from racing.

“It was nice to have qualified on the front row but I asked myself why should I race? I felt that I was physically unwilling to do it but also if I had an incident with one of the title contenders and took them out of the race, that would have been very bad. I might have destroyed their season. I could say goodbye to everyone on the grid and this was the best thing to do. I also did not want to break the promise that I made to my family not to race,” reflected Sofuoglu.

Family has played a role in the 33 year old's career for many years and it also provided the most dramatic moments of his career. In a heartbreaking 2015 season the Turkish rider was flying to and from races while his newborn son was in intensive care. Ultimately Hamza would lose his battle, but the spirit and determination showed by Sofuoglu was nothing short of Herculean. To claim the title that season was incredible, and in the depths of a personal hell he was able to claim four consecutive victories.

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2018 WorldSBK Donington Preview: What To Expect At Donington Park

Round 6 of the 2018 WorldSBK championship sees the paddock head for the home of Superbikes; Donington Park. The British circuit hosted the first ever round of the championship in 1988 and since then the affinity for Superbike racing in the UK has only continued to grow. The spectacular, flowing track has been the canvas for some of the most incredible moments in the history of the class but will this weekend be remembered in the same light?

Contenders ready?

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Barcelona Tire Test Day 2: Viñales Smashes Record As Rabat Crashes

Maverick Viñales has given an indication of just how much faster the new asphalt is at the Barcelona circuit. Despite the layout being nominally slower than the old layout, Viñales took over a second and a half of Aleix Espargaro's pole record.

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Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 73: Le Mans And Silly Season Madness With Neil And Steve

The latest episode of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in this edition, Neil Morrison and Steve English catch up with the events of the Le Mans MotoGP round and take a broad overview of the happenings in WorldSBK. After a quick recap of the on track events at the French Grand Prix, Neil and Steve turn their attention to the wildness that is the current state of MotoGP's Silly Season.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “Marc is a freak!”

Another race, another victory, so what exactly is Marc Márquez’s big secret?

I’m stood in the Le Mans pitlane, chatting with a venerable MotoGP engineer, trying to eke from him the relative merits of every bike on the grid.

“The holy grail of motorcycle racing has always been to come up with a device that can save front-end slides, and now Honda has one…” he says, pausing for effect. “He’s called Marc Márquez.”

And that there is the story of MotoGP right now. Love him or loathe him, Márquez is on another level to everyone else. He has an ability that none of the others possess. That doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable, because he’s not always the fastest man out there, but it’s this unique talent that helps him to make the difference.

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Barcelona Tire Test Day 1: Iannone Fastest As New Asphalt And Layout Means Scorching Lap Times

After Le Mans, the MotoGP teams had rushed from France down to Barcelona to test the new surface and layout at the Montmelo circuit. The track has been completely resurfaced, and extra runoff created at Turn 13 (the old Turn 12) which means that the corner can be restored to its former glory, before it was altered in the wake of the tragic death of Luis Salom in 2016.

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Subscriber Feature: The Importance Of Test Riders, Part 3: Davide Tardozzi On The Importance Of Michele Pirro, And Ducati's Role As A Pioneer

In the third part of our series on test riders, we come to the rider who has arguably had the biggest impact on the factory he has worked with. Michele Pirro has been the workhorse for Ducati's test program, putting in the miles to do the hard work, while at the same time being fast enough to be genuinely competitive during his wildcard appearances. Ducati's use of Michele Pirro has clearly inspired other factories to pursue similar avenues, with KTM taking Mika Kallio and Suzuki using Sylvain Guintoli.

In the next couple of days, we will have an interview with Pirro on how it feels to be a test rider, but first, Ducati team boss Davide Tardozzi on Pirro's role as a test rider for Ducati. Tardozzi talks about the importance Pirro's speed has had to the development of the Desmosedici, and how Ducati try to cultivate that speed through competition, either in the Italian CIV championship or by scheduling tests with other manufactures to encourage riders to try to beat each other's lap times.

Q: How important has Pirro been to Ducati?

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2018 Le Mans Sunday Round Up: Crashes Shape The Championship, Yamaha's Woes, Ducati's Decision, And Moto3 Madness

Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking. In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways. In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa's brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden's championship challenge was over. Valentino Rossi's heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time. Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia. The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship. And Sunday's drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn't finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

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