Courtesy of KRT – Kawasaki Racing Team
FIM Supersport World Championship Superpole qualifying put returning world champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) into second place ahead of Sunday’s 16-lap race. His team-mate Kyle Ryde battled hard and qualified 18th, despite not finding his ideal race set-up yet.
Sofuoglu, a five-time champion in this class, was unsure of his recently recovered right thumb would handle the stresses of WorldSSP competition but it was a case of so far/so good for Sofuoglu who came back at almost full pace straight away.
His second position in Superpole 2 means Kenan starts from the middle of the front row, after calling on all the performance of his Ninja ZX-6R and all his years of experience to overcome his recent lack of track time.
For 19-year-old Ryde, who is fourth in the championship standings after two rounds, the familiar surroundings of Motorland Aragon – where he has ridden several times – did not translate into an optimum qualifying performance. He starts from the sixth row, but is confident of his ability to pass other riders as the race gets underway.
Ryde’s best lap time was relatively close to the leaders, just a second away on a long 5.077km track with a lap record of 1’54.605, but such is the competition in 2017 he was 18th of the 35 riders who attempted to qualify.
Like all the riders, having only one dry Friday practice session compromised Kyle’s time. This did not help him to eradicate the tendency of the back wheel to break traction under braking, and come around towards the front, but he is confident he will be ready for the single lap challenge of Superpole and the race itself.
Now the WorldSSP pack will prepare for the race, after a morning warm-up of 15 minutes. The race itself will take place at 11.30 local time on Sunday 2nd April.
Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “I am very happy to be back. I did not do the final winter testing or the first two rounds. When I arrived here it was very difficult, yesterday and this morning. I did not expect to be on the first row, but of course I am happy. For the race – I have no idea! I did not get to do a long run because of the wet session on Friday but I am relaxed and that is the most important thing. I’m happy.”
Kyle Ryde, stated: “It is strange to be where I am on the grid because I feel better here than in either Australia or Thailand. My confidence and everything in better but it is just not translating into a lap time. The big problem is ‘backing-in’ and I think that is because the temperature is lower than in Australia and Thailand. It is grippy here but it is still backing-in, so I cannot stop the bike. I think my riding style is not helping as I hang off so much. I think I will adjust the bike settings to be able to go down the gears and push it into the corners. If we can do that I think we will be OK.”
Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) was 12th on the grid for Sunday’s race, while Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI Kawasaki) placed himself 15th.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki), Ryde and Kazuki Watanabe (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) filled the grid spaces from 17th to 19th.
ESS rider Rob Hartog (Team Hartog Jenik Against Cancer Kawasaki) was 23rd, Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki)
25th, Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing Kawasaki) 27th and ESS rider Peter Sebestyen (SSP Hungary by Pedercini Racing Kawasaki) 29th. One-event runner Nasser Al Malki (Qatar National Team Kawasaki) ended up 33rd on the grid.