Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider Kenan Sofuoglu and his new team-mate Hikari Okubo finished eighth and tenth fastest in the final pre-season test of the 2018 WorldSSP campaign at Phillip Island, before the racing starts for real next weekend in Australia.
Five-time world champion Sofuoglu, who is now fully recovered from pelvic injures suffered in 2017, spent much of the two testing days at Phillip Island looking for an improved set-up package. As a result was unable to go for one fast lap to move beyond the top eight in the combined times, or do a final long-run to simulate real race conditions.
Even though he is rebuilding confidence and full one-lap pace after missing much of the 2017 season through injury, Sofuoglu was only 0.662 seconds from the fastest test time.
Japanese rider Okubo was one second behind the fastest rider of all, and ranked tenth overall in a field of 24 who took part in the official WorldSSP tests at Phillip Island. He is a new signing for the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team this year and is still finding his optimum machine set-up at this stage.
Now, with the first race of the season soon to take place over 18 laps of the 4.445km circuit, the main work will be to make a tyre choice and machine set-up package to last the entire race distance, at a circuit that is often very hard on the left hand side of the tyres.
Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “We know our bike over many years of racing and we wanted to find the next step with the machine set-up. We went in many different directions with the bike’s settings but, like in the Portimao and Jerez tests, it looks like in the end we have gone back to our basic set-up. We had a very good set-up in the past and it is not easy to improve in that package. Because we spent so much time working in that area today I only had a chance to try a race simulation yesterday. I think we finished in eighth position after the tests but we will see what happens for the race. It is always different and maybe I need to search for my confidence in the race itself. I am 100% fit to ride the bike. My 2017 injury is fixed and I do not have any problems, I am only searching for some confidence right now.”
Hikari Okubo, stated: “I am happy about these two days of testing because I had the chance to improve the set-up of bike. Even if this is not the first time I rode the Kawasaki – I tested in Almeria and Portimao – I just needed more time to understand the bike. Together with the team I worked to find a better set-up and to make the tyres last the duration of the race. We tried a different set-up with the suspension, I made two long runs and we are probably on the right path to find a solution for the race.”
Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing Kawasaki) was the fastest Kawasaki rider in the tests, in fifth place after two days of dry, but windy, track action.
Wildcard rider, and Australian compatriot of West, Tom Toparis (Cube Racing Kawasaki) secured the 17th best time, one place up on Michael Canducci (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) in the timesheets.
Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) was 21st and Lachlan Epis (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) 23rd.