WorldSSP – Return of the champ Kenan Sofuoglu
They say whilst the cats away the mice will play, which could have been the case in the FIM Supersport World Championship (WorldSSP), as the opening two rounds saw the absence of title favourite and reigning world champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) through injury. However bad luck plagued his two main title rivals PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Jules Cluzel (CIA Insurance Landlord Honda) and they were both only able to score 10 points between them in Australia and Thailand. Heading to MotorLand Aragon for Round Three, it could be said the title fight starts now.
Set in the Spanish desert landscape, MotorLand is a stunning modern circuit which provides fast and close racing – perfect for a close series such as WorldSSP. With the introduction of the seven European Supersport riders as they begin their 2017 quest, Aragon is bound to provide some stunning action.
Kenan Sofuoglu makes his return following his fight back to fitness, with two races apart from his Kawasaki ZX-6R machine. Kyle Ryde (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) has been holding down the fort for the team so far with Thai rider Thitipong Warokorn drafted in for Round two, and whilst both have had credible results the team haven’t made the step onto the podium just yet, which is something the Turkish rider will hope to change. Sofuoglu has won at the Spanish circuit for the past three years, but he will face some stiff competition.
American PJ Jacobsen was unable to get involved in the intense fight in Thailand as he suffered a mechanical issue with his Italian MV Agusta machine, resulting in a DNF in Round Two. Heading into Europe Jacobsen will now be accompanied by his team-mate Alessandro Zaccone (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) who is making his second appearance in the ESS following a third position finish in the cup last year. Jacobsen has a strong record around MotorLand Aragon; despite never winning a race in the class there he holds the race lap record set in 2015, which is no mean feat around Aragon. With a reliable machine, the 23 year old will be putting up a tough fight in Spain.
Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) is another title hopeful who has suffered with bad luck so far in 2017, with a big crash followed by a technical problem respectively in the opening races, hindering his title fight. The French rider was lucky to bounce back from injury from the opening round at Phillip Island, but he went to Thailand fighting. Securing pole position in Buriram, a technical problem meant he was forced to retire from the lead meaning he has scored no points so far in 2017. Cluzel is another rider who will head into Europe hoping to secure a positive result at a track he has proven pace around, taking pole position and the pole lap record in 2015. It will be tight at the top, and with the addition of Hiromichi Kunikawa – the team’s ESS entry for 2017 – the Frenchman has three competitive team-mates to fight with alongside Robin Mulhauser and Hikari Okubo.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) continues to impress and exceed expectations into 2017, as the Italian currently sits in second in the championship standings following a stunningly crafted race win in Thailand. Battling through the heat and a drama fuelled race, Caricasulo came out on top with a mature ride. His history around MotorLand stands him in good stead in the competitive series; taking two podium finishes in the STK1000 class on top of a top seven finish in WorldSSP last season means the Italian has space to improve at a tough track.
Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) made his debut on the podium for 2017 last time out at Chang International Circuit and the Finn sits in second in the world championship standings, three points from the top. A well planned and succinct ride in Thailand allowed him to take a top three finish in a tough race for many. Continuing the journey in his debut full season with the Yamaha-backed team, Aragon could produce all kinds of shocks for the field and Tuuli will be there hoping to secure another solid finish to add to his impressive points scored so far.
Kyle Smith (Gemar Team Lorini) will be hoping to put a tough round in Thailand behind him, as he was disqualified despite crossing the line in second position. After pulling some risky over-takes, Smith was requested by race direction to drop three positions which he didn’t adhere to meaning he was black flagged and as a result, disqualified. Proving he has the pace aboard his Honda CBR600RR, he will hope to make a big impact as the series takes on the European battles. With an increased field it will be an even tougher battle for the Brit, however he has a strong history around the circuit, taking away trophies from MotorLand in the past.
World championship leader Roberto Rolfo (Team Factory Vamag) continues to impress following his stunning season opening victory around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Consistency is the key to winning championships and heading into the third round with a three point lead, could the Italian veteran be the underdog for 2017? Securing a top 11 finish in the the intense Buriram heat, Spanish sun will be much more bearable for Rolfo as heads to MotorLand he will hope to improve on his past results of top ten finishes.
Sitting in a credible 14th position overall in the Championship standings, home hero Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) is the lone Spanish rider in the series, meaning he will hope to impress in front of his home fans at MotorLand Aragon. Securing some points scoring finishes so far this season, Calero will be looking to continue this steady form this weekend and take some points away from a circuit he has struggled at in the past.
British duo Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) and Stefan Hill (Profile Racing) are hoping to bounce back from
a very tough opening two rounds aboard their Triumph machines, as the Thai heat caused major issues for their Daytona 675’s. Now the series hits Europe, the young pair will be closer to home and hoping to get those all important points scoring finishes which the team deserve.
WorldSSP action kicks off at 11:00LT for Friday’s opening free practice, before an intense Saturday with Superpole kicking off at 14:00pm ahead of a high action Sunday race, at 11:30LT