Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Michele Pirro took his debut World Supersport championship race victory in Suday’s 12th round at Imola in Italy. His teammate and series leader, Kenan Sofuoglu, was second, but the story might have been very different.
Starting from pole position for the 19-lap race, Sofuoglu spent the early laps trading positions and fastest laps with his only championship rival, Eugene Laverty, who came to Italy 12 points down on the Turkish rider with two races to go.
The Honda-mounted pair were so dominant that they quickly opened a seven-second gap from the chasing group, which included Pirro, who had also started from the front row of the grid.
Sofuoglu and Laverty engaged in a high-speed game of cat and mouse, with neither rider able to open a gap of more than 0.3s for the entire 19-laps. The result of the race and, possibly, the championship would come down to the last lap.
Sofuoglu rode supe rb lines to prevent Laverty getting the lead he desperately needed to boost his hopes of the championship title. But at the final chicane the Irish rider made an optimistic lunge that resulted in him losing the front of his CBR600RR, taking out Sofuoglu in the process.
As both riders scrambled to get their machines back on track, it was Pirro who rode through to take the chequered flag having passed third placed man, Chaz Davies, who retired with a technical problem on the final lap.
Sofuoglu and Laverty were able to remount and cross the line for second and third places respectively, with the championship points difference going into next weekend’s final round at Magny-Cours in France being 16 instead of the 17 had they finished in their earlier 1-2 formation.
Michele Pirro says: “It is incredible to win my first World Supersport race and I’m very happy because this is my home race and the rest of the season has not been very good. OK, I was able to win because Kenan and Eugene crashed at the last corner but I am still very happy. Congratulations to all the team who did a great job today to get a win and a second place. Now we can move to the last race in Magny-Cours and aim for another podium to finish the season in a good way.”
Kenan Sofuoglu says: “All weekend I was very confident and it was the same for the race today. We were definitely ready to go for the win but I am not sure that Eugene had enough speed to go with me. He was able to follow but his aim in the race when he was leading seemed to be to slow me and to block me. I pushed hard for the last few laps and he was still able to follow me but I think that the final attack he made was too much on the limit.”
“I was already braking very late into that corner and it seemed like his idea was to crash and take me with him. I was very lucky and my bike was sti ll able to run and I could get back up to finish in front of Eugene. Of course, I really wanted to win this weekend but it didn’t happen. The positive thing is that I have a 16-point advantage going to Magny-Cours.”
Ronald ten Kate says: “Well, finishing first and second with our riders makes it, of course, a great day. Congratulations to Michele for his very first World Supersport victory, the whole team is very happy for him. For sure, the biggest challenge here was for the title and accidents like the one at the last corner can happen in racing.”
“But it did seem a pretty desperate move, especially at the part of the track where Kenan had been by far the latest on the brakes. Having said that, it doesn’t change the result… a lot. Instead of a lead of 17 points, it’s now 16, so yeah, we’ve got to keep our act together for Magny-Cours next week and try to get the fat lady to sing.”
2010 World Supersport championship – round 12 Imola Results:
(4.936km – 19 laps)
1. Michele Pirro (ITA) Hannspree Ten Kate Honda 36m07.906s
2. Kenan Sofuoglu (TUR) Hannspree Ten Kate Honda +2.888s
3. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Honda +4.569
4. Broc Parkes (AUS) Kawasaki +4.865s
Championship points after 12 of 13 rounds: 1 Sofuoglu 243, 2 Laverty 227, 3 Joan Lascorz (ESP) Kawasaki 168, 4 Chaz Davies (GBR) Triumph 137, 5 Pirro 91
Final round: Magny-Cours, France: Oct. 1-3