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.
“The best title for me to win was in 2015 because it was a hard season for me. My baby had an illness which meant that when I came to race, I was living at the hospital where my baby was in intensive care. It was a very hard year and to win the championship was the best. Always in life if you win the hard ones it’s more special, and this was a special one for me.”
While on track battles could seem trivial after such a trying time Sofuoglu has had more than his fair share of scraps and scrapes on track.
“Eugene Laverty in 2010 was probably the most competitive season I ever had. We were both on the Honda that year and our bikes were the same. There were 13 races in that season and I had 13 podiums. I knew that if I made any mistake that I wouldn't have won the title. Eugene is one of the toughest competitors I've ever had. I've been lucky to have to race against Sam Lowes, Jules Cluzel, Cal Crutchlow and a lot of other riders who were all very competitive.
“The 2009 round at Miller Motorsport Park stands out in my mind because it was me, Cal Crutchlow and Eugene Laverty fighting for the whole race. I won that race and it was my best race ever. Of course racing in Turkey in 2013 was so special and the battle with Sam Lowes was great. He was riding fantastically and it was only in the last two laps that I caught him and won the race. It was a very special moment in my career.”
In addition to racing in WorldSSP the 2008 saw an ill-fated switch to the Superbike class that ended with a return to 600cc machinery at the final race of the year. After a year on the Superbike with a best result of ninth the Turk swapped rides with Jonathan Rea and completed the full set of pole, fastest lap, and race victory at the final round in Portimao.
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