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Kenan Sofuoglu - Q&A

Kenan Sofuoglu speaks to Crash.net about the pressures of high expectations, the troubles of 2014 and incorporating Ramadan into racing
Crash.net:
Ramadan was probably quite conveniently placed for you this year wasn't it?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Yes, that's true, I only had one race during it and I've been able to complete Ramadan during the WSBK 'holiday'. Ramadans in summer aren't easy because you have to fast between sunrise and sunset but from the point of view of racing the timing was good.

It's not something that is easily mixed with racing because I can't even drink between sunrise and sunset. I enjoy spending the nights eating and drinking with the family though, for us Ramadan is a bit like Christmas. I eat and drink quite a lot up to 5am and then I'm set for the day. At the end we have 3 days of celebration called Eid and there we make up for lost time.

As I mentioned before, if there's a race during Ramadan I eat and drink normally during the event because many people are depending on me racing as normal and I can then add those days onto the end when I have time.

Crash.net:
Does it get in the way of your preparation and training?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
It's difficult to train when it's on because you need to drink plenty of water, but Ramadan is now finished and I started training last week. When you are fasting you can't push yourself too hard. By the time we get to Jerez I'll be fine and totally recovered.

The WSBK break is pretty long and we're now really looking forward to getting back to racing.

Crash.net:
I guess it's given you time to reflect on your season?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
At the beginning of the year, some people were saying that I'd win the championship easily, they thought that after Sam Lowes had left that I would just walk it, but I knew from experience that it's never easy and it really hasn't been. It's turned out to be one of my most difficult seasons.

I'm not really worried about my speed or my performance, it's mainly circumstances. The year started quite badly but I then managed to get a win at Aragon, it was after that that the really bad times started. At Imola I was leading and then had a problem with the clutch, at Donington I again had a technical problem when near the front and problems like that are the worst to handle. You have a great result that you fought hard for just taken away.

After that group of races I felt really broken and my motivation went through the floor. I was low in the championship and couldn't find an attainable goal to give me motivation, that also connected with my confidence, it wasn't a happy time. I'm a championship winner and was thinking why would I go through this just to come 5th or 6th? In the last couple of races I didn't feel as if I was going at 100%.

At the beginning of the year you start with the aim of winning the championship and when that gets taken away from you for reasons you can't control, it affects you. Knowing that you stand no chance of winning the championship makes it really difficult to prepare, I can't say that I gave up but I certainly lost my confidence and motivation.

There are now only three races left and I know I can't be world champion so I have to accept that and readjust my expectations to be 2nd or 3rd in the championship. That's now my goal and motivation and by the time I start again I'll have put in the preparation necessary.

Another problem is that we don't know if our team will be able to finish the season or not as there are quite big financial problems. Sponsors have left the team and Kawaski Europe are currently helping us and that's how we are continuing to race. We've basically got a very low budget to continue racing, it's quite discouraging.

Crash.net:
Are the technical issues you've been having linked to those financial problems?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Yes, definitely. A lot of the time I'm using parts on the bike from last year and they can give out. I really can't blame my team for this though because they are dedicated and work hard as usual, they can't be blamed for not being able to afford new parts. I try to ride the bike as normal but I often know that there might be an old part on it and that can play on your mind.

Another thing is that I lost my crew chief from last year as the team weren't able to make him a good enough offer and that again means that I've got a lack of continuity but as I said, it isn't the team that's the problem, it's the tight finances. We just haven't got the budget to prepare properly.

Crash.net:
Is the competition from Michael (Van Der Mark) and Jules (Cluzel) harder than from Sam (Lowes)?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
No, I wouldn't say so. If you look at the speed, I was actually faster last year than this. I think that a lot of that comes down to motivation in that I really enjoyed my battles with Sam.

Both Michael and Jules are strong competition but my problems this year have made me look weaker and the way my confidence has been affected has also made it worse. The fact that they are often beating me has increased their motivation so that has contributed too. You can see that Michael is looking for the championship.

My hardest year in Supersport was probably 2009 when I was particularly battling Eugene Laverty but this is probably my second hardest.

Now that I've fully accepted that I can't be champion, I've reset my goals to be something that I can achieve and that means I can have more motivation and can enjoy my racing more. 2nd or 3rd in a world championship isn't such a bad place to be and that has become my motivation.

At the beginning of the season I really wasn't sure how strong the competition would be after Sam Lowes left but it's fair to say that the competition has actually turned out to be stronger than last season. I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I didn't know it was going to be this hard.

Crash.net:
What are the main challenges in achieving that goal?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Something which will get in the way is that I don't have any engine's left and if I use another engine I'll have to start from last position as dictated by the new rules.

Another problem is that Jerez is in only 3 weeks time and frankly I'm not sure if my team will be there or not. At the moment I just don't know, we're having a meeting this week to decide if it will compete, hopefully things will go well.

Crash.net:
What will happen if your team can't attend?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
I'm meeting Mahi on Monday and if the team can't confirm then I'll be meeting Kawasaki Europe and hopefully they can supply me with a bike to finish the season on. That's our plan B.

If I continue with Mahi we've only got one older engine left and it'll be impossible to finish the season with it so at some stage I'll have to use a new engine and therefore start from last on the grid. If I go with another team I may not have that problem.

Crash.net:
Does this mean that your plans for next year are still up in the air?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
I've got a very good relationship with Kawasaki and we've been talking throughout this very hard year. At the moment we don't necessarily know which team I'll be with but I feel sure it will be with Kawasaki.

At the beginning of this year there was so much expectation on my shoulders with everybody thinking that I'd win the championship easily and I think the good thing for next year will be that there'll be less expectation and pressure so I'm hoping that it'll be a more relaxed season.

Crash.net:
Does having such a lot of difficulties ever make you think of stopping racing?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
For me I'm still enjoying racing in Supersports and feel that I'm still strong and motivated enough to win, I no longer have ambitions to race in Superbikes so will probably stay here.

In myself I think that I will probably continue for another 3 years or so. I always think that I'll continue for another 3 seasons if my performance is good enough, time will show me when to leave.

Crash.net:
I guess your mother will be very relieved when you do retire.

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Oh yes, she worries a lot because she has lost her other sons and she also wants me to be a family man. I'll actually be getting married very soon.

Crash.net:
You're getting married?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Yes, I'll be getting married just before Jerez in Barcelona. We're just in the middle of deciding the exact day and after that I can go directly to Jerez.

I've already been engaged to Julia for three years so I'm not worried and I'm really looking forward to it and I'm just on my way now to make some arrangements for the wedding.

Crash.net:
So what is more difficult, getting through this hard year of racing or preparing for a wedding?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Oh, the wedding for sure.

That's part of the reason we're doing it in Spain to make it a little easier for me. I'm quite famous in Turkey and that means that maybe 10,000 people would turn up to come to the wedding and I think the president might also want to come and that would be a little heavy for me. For us it's just a lot easier to get married in a different country and then we can think about having a family.

Crash.net:
So there are going to be some young Sofuoglus coming through racing soon?

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Hopefully, it would be great to have some children also enjoying the sport that I love so much. I love riding bikes but I'm over 30 now so it'd be great to pass that on to my children and hope that they enjoy it as much as I have.

Crash.net:
Thanks Kenan and congratulations on your wedding.

Kenan Sofuoglu:
Thank you.
by Christian Tiburtius



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The official 2011 WSS season review by Duke Video
[L-R]: Chaz Davies, Luca Scassa and Gino Rea, Donington Park WSS podium, 2011 [pic credit: Ian Hopgood Photography]
Sam Lowes, Parkalgar Honda, Donington Park WSS, 2011 [pic credit: Ian Hopgood Photography]
James Ellison, Bogdanka PTR Honda, Donington Park WSS, 2011 [pic credit: Ian Hopgood Photography]
David Salom, Kawasaki Motocard.com, Donington Park WSS, 2011 [pic credit: Ian Hopgood Photography]
Gino Rea, Step Racing Honda, Donington Park WSS, 2011 [pic credit: Ian Hopgood Photography]
Luca Scassa, ParkinGO Yamaha, Donington Park WSS, 2011 [pic credit: Ian Hopgood Photography]
James Ellison, Bogdanka PTR Honda, WSS 2011, Donington Park [pic credit: Wendy Salisbury Photography]
James Ellison, Bogdanka PTR Honda, WSS 2011, Donington Park [pic credit: Wendy Salisbury Photography]
James Ellison, Bogdanka PTR Honda, WSS 2011, Donington Park [pic credit: Wendy Salisbury Photography]

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