A tactic of tyre preservation paid dividends for Kenan Sofuoglu in the first World Supersport race of the season at Phillip Island after edging team-mate Andrew Pitt for victory.
The Turk prevailed in an exceptionally tight race, despite dropping down the order rapidly in the opening stages after choosing to try and save his tyres for a late race assault.
It proved to be a wise decision, Sofuoglu gradually working his way back into contention before snatching the lead off Pitt on the final lap and coasting on to victory.
Admitting to a little bit of contact with Pitt as he swept through, the 2007 champion was delighted to be embarking on a winning return to the championship.
“Andrew went very fast at the beginning while I found myself down in around tenth place. I tried to ride as slowly as possible because we were worried about the rear tyre but I had to ride really hard to get back to the front and to get past Andrew and Anthony [West]. I think Andrew and I actually touched at one point, which probably scared Ronald a bit!
“But I'm so happy to win, especially after setting the fastest lap in qualifying for pole position yesterday. My team has been fantastic to give me such a good bike and it's been a great start to the championship.”
Reigning champion Pitt, meanwhile, wasn't too disheartened to lose out to Sofuoglu, congratulating his team-mate before revealing he will donate his prize money to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal Fund to help victims of the recent Australian bushfires.
“It was a strange old race, really – we were riding so slowly for most of it, just to make the tyres last. Everyone was tripping over one another until the last five laps, but that's what we've been working on – trying to be there when it really matters. I just found myself in the wrong place going into the final lap but big congratulations to Kenan, he had a great ride today.”
Pointing out that the race was won with the 2008-specification Honda CBR600RR, Ronald ten Kate was thrilled with the team's perfect start to the year.
“It's the best possible start to the season for us and big compliments to the whole technical crew, who have had quite some issues to resolve regarding race set-up and the preservation of the tyres. They and the riders managed this in the best possible way. These results were achieved on the 2008 CBR600RR, so we can't wait to get to Europe, when we'll start racing the '09 model, which we believe will be even stronger.”