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EXCLUSIVE Kenan Sofuoglu talks Lowes clash, broken ribs, 2014

14 August 2013

By Christian Tiburtius

An exclusive interview with reigning triple World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu, in which the Mahi Kawasaki star gives his side of the controversial last-lap Silverstone clash with title rival Sam Lowes, reveals he recently broke three ribs in a holiday accident and provides an update on his 2014 plans...

Crash.net:
Hello Kenan, what was your perspective about that pass?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
I really want to speak about this. In the last lap, in the corner before it happened, I braked really late in the hairpin just before we touched each other and Sam had no chance to pass me there but he just released his brakes and he took me out to the white line. We missed the corner together. He entered the corner inside me but couldn't turn it and had my line so I couldn't lean properly because Sam was there.

It was the last lap, he had decided to pass and that was quite normal, I wouldn't complain about that. We both missed the corner because of that manoeuvre, we then both missed the right hand corner and on the next left one neither of us had a decent line. You have to remember that we were fighting to win the race.

In the corner where it happened, it's true that I went in inside him and I'm absolutely sure he could hear my engine but he just didn't want to stand his bike up. I was obviously expecting him to stand his bike up because he knew I was there.

Then we touched and at that moment I didn't know that he had crashed, though I did know that he might have done. When I finished the race I came in and saw him come in really late. I was thinking at the time that he'd just run off track and it was only later that I was told that he'd crashed.

Crash.net:
When you went into the corner where it happened, who was ahead, you or Sam?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
The best way to explain it is that when he attacked me in the previous corner, I was braking so late that he had to miss the corner to get inside me and in doing that took me towards the outside of the corner too. I therefore couldn't enter the next corners properly because of that. That seemed normal to me, we wanted to win the race, it was the last lap and I wouldn't complain about that. As I said into the next left hand corner I just went in the way Sam had gone in previously and I'm sure he could hear me but still leant onto me. He needed to stand his bike up.

I'm sorry that he crashed but I'm really disappointed that he is saying that I did it on purpose. I didn't do it on purpose, I didn't know that he'd crashed; I just wanted to win the race. I said after the race that If I'd crashed in that corner and he'd won the race, I wouldn't have complained and said that Sam had crashed into me on purpose.

I have to remind you of Imola in 2010 when Eugene Laverty took me out of the race when the title was at stake. After the race I didn't say anything negative about how Eugene had attacked me. I was desperate to win, he was desperate to win and these things can happen.

I don't understand why Sam, speaking on television directly afterwards, said that he accepted it and said that these things can happen but then after two days is saying that I did it on purpose. I feel that it was a little two faced in that we congratulated each other after the race and it seemed OK.

I feel that he's a great rider, but when I read afterwards his opinion that I'd done it on purpose that kind of broke that feeling and also my respect.

I feel that in England nobody wants to accept it as a racing incident because it happened to Sam in his home round. It just isn't necessary to go public with these kind of accusations that I did it on purpose.

Crash.net:
At the end of the race you seemed to be apologising to Sam?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Yes I did because I knew that something had happened. I was sorry that the race ended in that way and sorry that he crashed. I would have preferred it if we could have turned the last corner together because we both really wanted it, that would have been great racing.

I also heard after the race though that Sam's brother Alex had come to my box complaining very hard to my mechanics and team. That is unprofessional and I don't think you can do this kind of thing. Who are you coming to my box and screaming at my team, I feel that's unacceptable.

I told Sam at Imola that he was going to win the title. Honestly, I lost my chance of the title in Aragon and Monza. So from now on my goal would be to win races, Sam should be racing for the championship. When I was racing for the title with Eugene Laverty, I was often happy to be second because that would have been enough to win the title.

I think it is known that I am the kind of rider who will fight to the last corner to win a race if I have the chance when my goal is to win races. If there is a risk, I will take it whereas Sam maybe shouldn't.

This season I have really started to like Sam personally so for me the fact that it is almost being said behind my back that I did it on purpose is very disappointing. I feel that what has been said has made people angry at me. It gives me a bad feeling that someone I thought of as a friend is saying this.

With all the things that have happened, the pleasure of winning that race has gone and I'm almost sad about it.

I have to repeat, I didn't do it on purpose.

Crash.net:
Whose bike was faster at Silverstone, yours or Sam's?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
My bike was faster. The engine and grip of the Kawasaki is very good, observing Sam's bike I think that he was better in the sharp corners. At the end of the lap and race I think we were quite similar. I think that the fact that the 2 bikes are evenly matched has made the racing better.

Crash.net:
Before the last lap, it looked as if Sam was making signals at you?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
After he passed me in the middle of the race, he closed his throttle and let me past and a few laps later I did the same to him. We both accepted that we couldn't run away at the front and we both accepted that we would have to sort it out in the last laps, we were just waiting.

Crash.net:
So both you and Sam knew that you would be fighting it out on the last lap?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
For sure.

Crash.net:
After the race, did the race stewards talk to you at all?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
No, nobody spoke to me. I know that Yamaha protested but race direction rejected it and found my move to be a normal racing incident. If race direction finds it OK, why is it still being spoken about?

If race direction had decided on a penalty then I would have had nothing to say and could only give my opinion when asked, in this case though when examined the move was found to be legal.

Crash.net:
And this situation won't change how you ride?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
No it won't. I have a goal, I will try to win the last races. I'm not going for the title, I'm going for wins as long as the package allows me.

I'm on holiday now though and unfortunately I have hurt myself and I am hoping that I'll be fit for the race in Germany.

Crash.net:
What is your injury?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
I actually did it on the water. It was on one of those banana-like things which are dragged behind a boat. A friend fell on me and I broke 3 ribs, two days ago.

Crash.net:
Finally Kenan, I have to ask this question while I'm talking to you, have you finalised your plans for next year?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
This for me is still a big question mark.

I did a two hour test on the Superbike and I have to say that I didn't find it easy, I wasn't so fast after two hours because firstly I had got so used to the Supersport bike and secondly because of the amount of electronics. It's possible to adapt but I'm not sure if that's possible for me, I'm 29 now and not a young boy.

The other thing is, do I have a good team? In Supersport I'm racing in a great team with official support from Kawasaki. In Superbike though the factory team already has two riders and I would need to go to a private team and I don't know which one is good.

It really depends on what Kawasaki want me to do. I asked Kawasaki and they said that they would be happy if I stayed in Supersport. I am a rider who likes to win and that is possible in Supersport but I'm not sure how possible that would be in Superbike.

Also my Federation and the government in Turkey, they are saying that they want me to continue in Supersport because it might take me two years to get to the level of fighting for the championship. If I win the Supersport title my federation will get more support from the government to help young riders.

I'm currently helping ten boys to get support from the government for their racing because when I stop racing it is important to me that there are more young riders coming out of Turkey. The government doesn't care if I'm in Superbike or Supersport, it's the title which is important.

For me at the moment it's 50:50 and I'm hoping to speak to Kawasaki in Germany. It's really up to Kawasaki though, I'll do what they ask me to do because I like being with them.

Crash.net:
Thanks Kenan and enjoy your holiday.

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Thank you.

Lowes is now 29 points ahead of Sofuoglu, with five rounds remaining


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