On the weekend in which it officially began as the dethroned World Supersport Champions, Ten Kate Honda proved they still have a winning package after Kenan Sofuoglu battled to a third win of the season at Imola.
With Sofuoglu's retirement in Germany mathematically preventing Ten Kate from extending its seven consecutive title wins, the Turk was riding for honour in Imola and was duly rewarded with a deserved, if fortuitous, victory.
Having posed the closest threat to the dominant Cal Crutchlow throughout the weekend, a good start helped the Turk take the early initiative. Although he lost the lead to Joan Lascorz at the half-way point, the Kawasaki's rider's imminent engine blow meant he held the advantage at the restart.
Moving to the front again, while Crutchlow fought back to push into the lead with three laps remaining, the Yamaha rider's fall shortly afterwards would promote Sofuoglu back into an advantage he wouldn't lose.
A rare high in what has been a tough season for the former champion, Sofuoglu is satisfied that Ten Kate Honda are getting back on terms with Yamaha and Parkalgar Honda.
“It's really nice to have 14 wins but it's been a really hard season with a lot of problems,” Sofuoglu, who also announced at Imola that he will continue with the team for 2010, said. “But we've improved the bike a lot over the last two races, especially this weekend – our tuners have worked very hard for this race and our bike is fast again!
“Now, every time I go on the track, I think I can win the race. I was strong this weekend and, although Cal's crash helped me to win today, I will try to win the last two races as well and try to keep third in the championship. I'd like to thank the team again – it's nice to be able to win again.”
Reigning champion Andrew Pitt also had reason to be pleased with his sixth place finish, even if he was dropped from an aggregate position of fourth on the very final lap.
“The second part of that race felt really good – like the bike and me are finally back again. We made a big call during the break for the red flags and put a bit more weight on the front of the bike.
“It transformed it and my lap times just kept getting better. I was held up a bit by Fabien Foret but it felt fantastic to be running near the front again. Now I can't wait for the next two races to get up there again.”