Kenan Sofuoglu's World Supersport title defense is off to a rough start. The Kawasaki rider has been forced to withdraw from the first two rounds of the 2017 season to have surgery to fix a hand injury he suffered in a training crash.
Sofuoglu injured his right hand in a fall riding a Supermoto bike, dislocating his thumb, breaking bones and damaging tendons. After surgery to try to pin the broken bones, Sofuoglu attempted to test at Phillip Island, with a view to making it through the first round of the series. The pain proved to be unbearable, however, the Turkish rider only managing a couple of laps before having to return to the pits.
Sofuoglu will now return home to have surgery on his hand, to reattach the damaged tendons. The reigning champion will return to action at the third round of the season at the Motorland Aragon circuit at the end of March.
Sofuoglu's absence will offer a golden opportunity to other riders to seize control of the championship. At Kawasaki, the responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Sofuoglu's teammate, Kyle Ryde. Former runner up Jules Cluzel will see his opportunity, racing a Honda this year, while PJ Jacobsen, the fastest man on Tuesday, will also see a chance. Lucas Mahias, Gino Rea, and Niki Tuuli are also hotly fancied.
Below is the press release from Kawasaki announcing Sofuoglu's withdrawal
Sofuoglu Out Of First Two Rounds As Ryde Continues Progress
Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and his new team-mate Kyle Ryde have just completed their final pre-season test sessions, at the host venue of the 2017 championship opener, Phillip Island. After struggling with the effects of a recently dislocated right thumb Sofuoglu has acted on medical advice and will not now compete at the Phillip Island race, or the subsequent round in Thailand.
Despite a recent right thumb and hand injury that has required two surgical procedures to try to fix, the most recent only taking place a few days ago, Sofuoglu rode bravely in testing at Phillip Island. He could only do so for a lap or two at a time before he was forced to stop as a consequence of his injury.
Kenan has ultimately decided to miss the first two rounds to have surgery to reattach severed tendons and come back fully fit. The Turkish rider intends to return to race action at the first round in Europe, in early April, at Motorland Aragon.
Kyle Ryde, who is not a novice to the class but is still at the start of his WorldSSP career compared to Kenan, pushed his way up to 13th from the 26 riders at the tests.
Sofuoglu, despite the pain and lack of strength in his right hand, had posted a lap that was seventh best overall. He was the fastest Kawasaki rider at the final official tests of the 2017 pre-season.
After the first race of the year, to be held on Sunday 26th February at Phillip Island, the WorldSSP championship will decamp to Thailand, and the Chang International Circuit near the city of Buriram.
Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “We made a decision that I am going back home and not racing at the first two rounds. Over these two days of testing I tried my best to be on the bike but, honestly, I can do one or two laps but after that the pain makes it impossible to ride. The problem is my right thumb, which is dislocated. It keeps moving and touching my other bones. We think the best way is to stop trying to race now, get surgery and to be ready for Motorland Aragon. I have spoken to a few doctors and all of them say to stop now and have a ligament operation to hopefully ready to race in Spain. We hope for this outcome but it is not sure. I am very disappointed that I cannot race here.”
Kyle Ryde, stated: “The final tests were a case of getting there step-by-step. I am a bit frustrated because I know I can be faster but I think the current set-up on the bike is holding me back. We are still working out what to do to improve it. We do not want to make big changes but the smaller ones we are making now are not enough yet. I enjoyed riding today but wanted to go faster in the afternoon. I am sure by Friday we will be able to make a big step. So far I have been riding around on my own but when I get in with some faster competition I am sure this will give me a boost.”
Gino Rea (Team GOELEVEN Kawasaki) placed 11th, Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) 12th - just ahead of Kyle Ryde.
Kazuki Watanabe (Team GOELEVEN Kawasaki) ended up 17th, Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI) 18th and Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) 19th. Local rider and full-time WorldSSP runner Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing Kawasaki) was 21st in testing, less than two seconds from the fastest rider.