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

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.”

No quarter

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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One tough rider and a deserved champ. Good luck with whatever you choose next Kenan, you are certain to be successful.

After that effort I’ve absolutely no time for the guy.

I was going to mention the Portimao incident earlier but ultimately decided against it. I'm glad you didn't as I'd forgotten about the Foret one as well. :)

Honestly, I have the utmost respoct for Kenan's talent and accomplishments but like many other all time greats, it was rare race to find myself actually rooting for him on track because of the perception of his personality I have. 

One of the beauties of this site - we get the great reporting of the insider established folks like Steve. And balanced with further considerations that others can say w ease.

Keenan was FAST. Aggressive. And an A-hole. Lots of ego. Motorbike racing has a long history of fast aggressive egotistical A-holes doesnt it? He won't be the last. While it isn't necessary to be an A-hole to be fast, it was a part of what got him where he did. Very driven.

We love watching aggressive A-holes get beat by nice guys. We enjoy their A-holery come back to bite them. For every Keenan there is a Bayliss...hugely competitive and driven, but as nice as they come. And an understated gentle bloke like, say, a Pedrosa. Then the cheerful clown that is also quite cocky, making things personal. Great cast of characters.

Our next new Muslim rider in the big leagues, from Malaysia this time, is a refreshing addition. Pescau is a super nice guy.

In WSBK we have the discouraging dominance of Rea. Hoping this wknd someone like Lowes/Yamaha does the business. WSS? The bummer of the "R6 Cup" dominance. None of this seems to bug me since MotoGP is in such a good state of affairs and still improving. Eyes on Moto2 eagerly for next yr.

In short, WSS is losing a strong and interesting rider that was particularly suited to middleweight production bikes. You are a prick Keenan. But a bit sorry to see you go.