Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s pairing of Andrew Pitt and Kenan Sofuoglu head for a new circuit on the World Supersport championship calendar this weekend (29-31 May) at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City in Utah, USA. Although the World Superbike championship made its debut visit to the 4.9km circuit close to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats last season, it’s a new adventure for the World Supersport series, which is making its first visit to the USA since Laguna Seca in 1999.By its own remarkably high standards, the last few races have not been easy for the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda squad since 2007 champion, Kenan Sofuoglu, won the opener at Phillip Island, Australia in March. A third place at Valencia, Spain in round three has helped Sofuoglu to third in the standings, while reigning world champion Andrew Pitt’s two second placings in Australia and Qatar have been his only podium visits in the six races to date.
Despite showing good pace throughout practice and qualifying last time out at Kyalami in South Africa, when both riders started from the front row, Sofuoglu and Pitt faded from the front with rear grip issues, finishing in fifth and sixth places respectively.3rd – Kenan Sofuoglu Speaks…I’ve been at home in Turkey since returning from Kyalami, just relaxing and not training too much. We went back to basics at Kyalami, to a base Ten Kate setting on the CBR600RR, and it worked throughout practice and qualifying. In fact, we were confident of a really good result in the race but something obviously went wrong with our grip after just three or four laps. We’ll sit down and discuss it with Pirelli but we just have to put it behind us now. I was at Miller last season on the Superbike, so at least I will have a bit of track knowledge for the early sessions as everyone else gets up to speed. I know we have been making good steps forward with the 2009 CBR and we’ll continue that at Miller this weekend, and hopefully get a better result for the team. 4th – Andrew Pitt Speaks…From Kyalami I went to stay with Ben Spies in Texas and we’ve been doing a bit of a road trip in his motorhome the 1300 miles (2100km) up to Utah – including a stop for a real Texas burger, which had to be followed by a couple of hours on the bike! We need to do something this weekend to find a way that will allow us to keep up our qualifying pace through the race. It’s clear that we’ve got to step up to the level that’s been set this season and, to do that, we’ve got to find a little extra from the bike. We’ve got some ideas on how to go about that this weekend and we’ll give it our best shot, of course. It’s a new track for everyone except Kenan, but I watched a couple of races with Ben, who knows it pretty well. We’ll walk the track together and probably confirm that it’s another straight followed by another corner! Misano was new to me last year and I won the race there, so let’s hope that’s a good sign!