Kawasaki has hinted that three-time World Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoglu
could be set for a return to the World Superbike Championship in 2014 after sampling the current ZX-10R during a recent test at Motorland Aragon.
Getting three hours of time on the machine regularly ridden by Tom Sykes and Loris Baz, Sofuoglu was drafted in to help with feedback in terms of electronics, particularly in light of new technical regulations which Kawasaki believes will allow them to have more bikes on the grid next season.
The Turk, currently chasing a record-breaking fourth WSS crown, last competed in World Superbikes in 2008 when he stepped up with Ten Kate Honda, but would struggle for competitiveness throughout the year, leading to a return to the 600cc category.
However, with Mahi Racing – Sofuoglu's current Supersport team – keen on making the move into World Superbikes next year, it is anticipated that the experienced racer will embark on a return by leading its progression into the top flight.
With this in mind, Sofuoglu was delighted to get the chance to test the ZX-10R, though gives little away about whether he will be racing one in 2014.
"I have to say thank you very much to Kawasaki as I recently got the opportunity to test the full Superbike and get a feeling for it. What I understood from this short session on track is that a modern day Superbike has a lot of electronics, even compared to a Supersport bike and that aspect of SBK racing is also very much geared to every individual rider.
“I think I would need to spend many days on the bike to find out where you need electronics. Mahi racing wants to move to Superbike next year so there are many things to speak about now. Kawasaki has opened a door for me with this test so thanks to them and the team for that opportunity. One thing is sure - the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is one of the very best Superbikes out there.”
Coming just two weeks after it was announced the foundations of a cost-cutting scheme aimed at increasing grid numbers from 2014 had been formalised, Mahi Racing team principal Amit Sandill says Superbikes is now a natural progression for his outfit.
"I am really glad that Kawasaki, Steve from KME and Guim of KRT have given Kenan the opportunity to get astride the factory Superbike. As people may be aware, depending on the plans of Kawasaki with our team, we would like to step up the game and move to Superbikes next year - in an ideal world.
“Therefore, Kenan's test was the very first move towards this, even though it was done at short notice. While Kenan did not know exactly what to expect, he does feel that given more time on the bike he may well be fast enough to challenge the top third of the grid. It's a pretty tough ask.
“Of course, for the team as well, the challenge will be even more than that of Supersport, but we feel that it is really the way to go - not the least in terms of media and television coverage, especially in India. Anyway, Kenan is currently completely focused on winning his fourth Supersport World Championship title this year and he has this task ahead of him now."
Sofuoglu is currently second in the WSS standings, 39 points behind Sam Lowes.