In a nine-lap WorldSSP sprint race, after the expected flag-to-flag race was stopped by a red flag incident, Kawasaki Puccetti Racing riders Kenan Sofuoglu and Hikari Okubo secured 13th and 14th place finishes respectively at Phillip Island.
After suffering a fast crash on Saturday, Sofuoglu was ready to take the fight to the opposition, but in the single nine lap race he felt vibrations from his machine as he fought inside the top positions, and slowly dropped back, concerned about another possible tyre issue.
Kenan finished with three points for 12th place, and a great desire to have better fortune when the championship heads to Thailand in late March for the next round.
New Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider Okubo was knocked off his bike in the first attempted running of the race, but was then fortunate to be able to make the restart after some smart repair work from his crew. Riding with his own concerns about a vibration during the race, he finished 14th and scored points in his first ride for his new team.
Round two of the championship will take place on Sunday 25th March at the Buriram circuit in Thailand.
Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “It was a very difficult weekend. Before Superpole, with a tyre problem that made a very big crash, it did a lot of damage to my body. I still wanted to fight today but in the race I understood that the level was strong and the pace was very fast, faster than Superpole. I pushed very hard but with four or five laps to go the bike started to have a vibration. For that reason I slowed down, and lost positions. After my fall on Saturday I had no problems with my physical condition in the race.”
Hikari Okubo, stated: “I got a good start in the first race start but in turn two a lot of riders were moving and changing their line, hitting my bike, so I crashed. After two laps there was a red flag and a restart to I could get onto the grid again. The bike looked like it had no big damage and the mechanics worked well to change the damaged parts. A big thanks to them for that. I pushed hard in the restart but I had a different feeling. After three laps the rear tyre had a big drop and a vibration, so I could not push. A difficult first race but a little bit lucky as I got two championship points. Not so many but it is important to always score points.”
Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing Kawasaki) was hugely unlucky not to score strongly in the race after demonstrating good pace in practice, suffering an early technical problem and being unable to make the restart.
Local rider Tom Toparis (Cube Racing Kawasaki) scored a point for 15th place today.
Lachlan Epis (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) was also unlucky not to finish the race with a small technical issue, but Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) finished 18th. Michael Canducci (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) fell and suffered a concussion, and is currently under assessment in hospital.