WSS : “I knew I could be challenging for the podium”
After a dramatic penultimate lap at the 5.380km Losail circuit in Qatar Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) took his all-new machine to the first race win of the 13-round World Supersport season, after his
team-mate Sebastien Charpentier (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) fell while leading. The only consolation for Charpentier was a new lap record, 2m 02.949s, set on lap three.
The two top Honda riders on the day were locked in a battle for the win, but Charpentier pushed too hard when going wide into a left hand corner and he was unable to restart after the subsequent lowside crash. Each rider had qualified on the front row, with Charpentier close to pole man, and eventual second place rider, Kevin Curtain, and Sofuoglu fourth on the grid.
Katsuaki Fujiwara (Althea Honda Team CBR600RR) had a successful start to his season, third on the grid and in the race, but setting comparable lap times with the leaders once he got over the hectic first few laps.
Sofuoglu expected a fight with his team-mate right to the end, but it was not to be, as he ended up running alone for the last lap, finishing some 3.4 seconds ahead of Curtain.
“I knew I could be challenging for the podium”, said Sofuoglu, who is no stranger to wins in WSS. “Kevin went away in front very fast but after only three or four laps I knew I could increase my speed and make an attack. I could ride at a high pace consistently, as could Sebastien, and for sure if he did not crash we would have fought for the win.
I am really happy because last year Sebastian was better than me but I think this year we are more like the same.”
Charpentier was naturally unhappy with his final misfortune in Losail.
“I am obviously very disappointed with the outcome of this race”, said a despondent double World Champion. “I was so close to the finish and I think we could have easily got a first and second for the team, but I lost the front end and couldn't recover from it. This has happened now, so I just need to look forward to the next round. It is only the first race and we have plenty of time to make it up.”
Front row starter Fujiwara could not capitalise on his strong qualifying performances on the first lap at least, yet he knew his final race weekend would be a good one after setting the fastest time on day one.
“This was a better performance than we could have hoped for when we came to Qatar”, said Fujiwara. “Today our final position as good but if we could start well, and get away with the top group, there was a possibility to win today. We didn't test here, had a new bike, new suspension everything new, and yet we got on the podium.”
The second round of the Supersport championship takes place at Phillip Island, Australia, next week, with race day on Sunday March 4.
Honda Motor Sport