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Kenan Sofuoglu has begun his quest for a fourth World Supersport Championship title in fine form by out-performing pre-race favourite Sam Lowes to win at Phillip Island.
The Turk had played second fiddle to Lowes for much of the Australian race weekend in free practice and qualifying, but showed his experience when it mattered by repeatedly utilising the straight-line speed of his Kawasaki to deny his younger rival.
An absorbing 15 lap race – reduced from 21 laps due to concerns over tyre longevity -, Sofuoglu and Lowes quickly declared their intentions as they forged their way to the front of the field, the pair chased by a feisty Michael van der Mark on the Pata Honda during the early stages.
From here, the pendulum of momentum would continuously swing between the two riders, with Lowes seemingly proving stronger through the bends on the Yakhnich Yamaha – particularly between turn one and the turn four hairpin -, but losing out significantly in a straight line.
As such, though Lowes would pass Sofuoglu five times into the hairpin, on each occasion he would be comfortably re-passed by the Kawasaki at the end of the home straight.
Nosing ahead definitively on lap twelve, a series of fast laps would successfully break the tow to Lowes as they entered the final lap, the Turk completing his 22nd career WSS win in style and the first success for the Indian-financed Mahi Racing team.
Behind a visibly disappointed Lowes, reigning European Superstock 600 champion van der Mark announced his arrival on the Supersport scene with an excellent ride to third, the Dutchman briefly holding the lap record as he launched an impressive challenge to his more experienced rivals.
Further back, an entertaining battle for fourth would be decided in favour of Fabien Foret on the second of the Mahi Kawasakis, though the Frenchman will be frustrated to miss out on a better result after dropping from third to 20th initially thanks to a poor start.
Shrugging off their respective injuries, Intermoto Kawasaki team-mates David Salom and Luca Scassa completed the top six, though the pair were fortunate to gain a spot after Roberto Rolfo was denied a superb result for ParkinGO MV Agusta when a technical issue on the penultimate lap eliminated him from fifth.
A strong race for Kawasaki, Andrea Antonelli made it five ZX-6Rs in the top ten with seventh on his GoEleven debut, ahead of Lorenzo Zanetti on the Pata Honda and Massimo Roccoli on the Pata by Martini Yamaha, the latter Italian having run as high as fourth in the early stages.
Similarly, Jack Kennedy would live up to his strong qualifying pace during the early stages as he held down fourth place, but would eventually slip back to tenth on the RivaMoto Honda.
A race of fairly high attrition, Rolfo's team-mate Christian Iddon compounded MV Agusta's frustrating day when he dropped back in the final laps having also been running inside the top ten. Other riders sidelined during the race included Vladimir Leonov and Raffaele de Rosa, who collided at the final corner, and wild-card rider Kev Curtain, while Kev Coghlan was running inside the top ten when he slid off his DMC Lorenzini Kawasaki on lap five, leaving him 18th at the chequered flag.
His team-mate Vladimir Ivanov, however, would fare better as he scored points in 11th, ahead of PTR Honda's Luca Marconi and the Suriano Suzuki pair of Roberto Tamburini and Mathew Scholtz. Alex Baldolini picked up the 15th and final point.