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Kenan Sofuoglu has taken a bite out of Sam Lowes's World Supersport Championship lead with victory at Imola, his first since the season opener at Phillip Island.
The Turk, who hasn't beaten his main rival in a straight fight since the Australian curtain raiser, benefitted from a truncated race and a decisively poor start for Lowes to reel off a relatively comfortable victory.
Reduced to a 14 lap sprint after an oil spill six laps into the first start necessitated a red flag and lengthy clean-up operation, Lowes – who was running second behind Sofuoglu at the time of stoppage – would get an awful getaway at the restart, slipping to sixth as the Turk assumed the lead.
Worse still, an off-track moment at the Variante Alta would see Lowes slip even further down to the order to tenth, all but denying him a shot at challenging for a fifth WSS win in a row.
Sofuoglu, on the other hand, was enjoying a comfortable time out front, reeling off a series of fast laps to put air between himself and the chasing pack, headed up by an inspired Vladimir Leonov, who was able to assume front running duties for the Yakhnich Yamaha team.
Further back however, Lowes challenge was beginning to gather momentum as he steadily worked his way up the order, the British rider often choosing the last corner chicane for his point of attack. Picking his way past Fabien Foret, Riccardo Russo, Kev Coghlan and Luca Scassa, Lowes needed to just dispose of the Pata Honda riders to get onto the podium.
He duly achieved his aim with six laps remaining, which he would use to try and close the gap on team-mate Leonov ahead. It would ultimately prove a successful endeavour, though any hint that Leonov would allow his title-challenging team-mate to pass were snuffed out as he held defensive lines throughout the final lap.
In the end, Lowes would wait until the final opportunity to attempt his move, Lowes diving through at the last corner on the last lap to claim second, significantly limited the damage to his championship lead.