Courtesy of KRT – Kawasaki Racing Team
As the Imola WorldSSP race weekend approaches for Kenan Sofuoglu and Kyle Ryde it will form a home round for their Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team. It will also offer up another opportunity for the Kawasaki duo to score heavily in the championship battle, which has just passed through one third of its duration.
After suffering a pre-season injury and then losing a potential strong finish in the third round due to another rider’s fall, Sofuoglu asserted himself in unmistakeable fashion at Assen last time out.
Scoring the Superpole grid spot and then a comfortable race win at the Dutch track, in what was his first points scoring event of the year, Sofuoglu immediately jumped into the top ten after four rounds of the 12 round season have been completed. He now sits ninth, on 25 points.
Should Kenan score the race win again in Imola it would be the 40th of his long and peerless World SSP career – and his 80th podium finish. Sofuoglu holds the records in WorldSSP for wins, podiums, championships (five), pole positions (31), front row starts (96) and fastest laps (28).
Kenan has great recent form at Imola, having won four races in all at the classic venue – including victories in 2015 and 2016.
After a strong start to the year from Ryde Assen was the first race in which he finished outside the top ten places in 2017. He remains in fifth place overall, just nine points from second in the championship, and his is still the top Kawasaki rider.
Ryde, as yet only 19-years-of-age, will look to Imola for his first Kawasaki podium, if all goes well in qualifying. If he succeeds in his mission this coming weekend it would be the second top three finish of his career after a third place at his home round of Donington, while riding as a wild card, in 2015.
The ceaselessly undulating Imola circuit features a vast variety of corners, many with blind entries, plus several speed-quelling chicanes and little in the way of places to relax for the riders over its 4.936km length. It has been the scene of 14 previous WorldSSP weekends.
After Imola, the championship moves to the home venue of Kyle Ryde – Donington Park – with raceday on 28th May.
Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “The success at Assen is behind us and now we are focusing on Italy. Imola is a very important weekend for us and for the team at its home round. It is one of the tracks I have normally had a good result at. The package we have in Italy can be a winning package and I hope we can fight for the win again on Sunday. In the championship I have no idea after the way the season started, but I am focused very much on keeping on winning races. This is the main basic goal. My previously injured hand is getting better and stronger every day. I have had a very good training regime in the past two weeks and in my conditioning I am strong, stronger than in Assen. I am just waiting to start the Imola weekend now.”
Kyle Ryde, stated: “So far this season things have been the opposite in relation to my previous strong points, and vice-versa. Where I have been weaker in the past I have been stronger this year, and where I have been stronger in the past I have been weaker so far – like in corner speed. For sure Imola is a difficult track and for the past couple of races we have had a struggle with the bike turning. You do not need that much corner speed at Imola, it is more about stopping the bike well, I think. If I am going to do well, ride to my potential, I reckon I have a good chance at Imola. I have a good chance everywhere but I need to keep getting top five race finishes while I am up there in the championship ranking. I will be alright, then.”
Another confident ride for Michael Canducci (3570 Puccetti Racing FMI Kawasaki) put him tenth in the championship after Assen, having scored in three of the four rounds so far, including a strong fifth place at Motorland Aragon. Imola will be his first home round of the season.
Kazuki Watanabe (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) is 15th overall, Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki 19th and Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing Kawasaki) 21st.
ESS (part-time, at the European based rounds only) rider Rob Hartog (Team Hartog Jenik Against Cancer Kawasaki) is 22nd, despite only having ridden in two rounds so far.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) is 23rd in the points, with Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) having been unfortunate in not scoring points yet.