‘I am a born sportsman’

Kenan Sofuoglu… battles ahead are going to be tough.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Personal tragedies have not broken Kenan Sofuoglu’s resolve. “I still love my job. I cannot do without racing,” says the champion rider, who is racing for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Mahi Racing Team India this season. By Y.B. Sarangi.

The three-time World Supersport bike racing champion, Kenan Sofuoglu, joining Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Mahi Racing Team India (MRTI) for the 2013 season proves that the Indian cricket captain means business as far as supporting his racing team is concerned.

Set up by its technical director Andrew Stone, MRTI, which joined the World Supersport competition very late last year, went on to win its first podium in only four races. For 2013, the team hired two new riders, 28-year-old defending champion Sofuoglu and seasoned Frenchman Fabien Foret, and immediately produced results. Sofuoglu of Turkey claimed the first position, while Foret bagged the fourth in the season opener in Australia.

During the team’s recent visit to its ‘home’ track, the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) — which will host the first Superbike and Supersport races in November — Sofuoglu spoke to Sportstar about his racing career, tragic personal life, his love for India and his interactions with Dhoni.

Excerpts:

Question: How do you like the bike (Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R)?

Answer: I am very happy with the bike. I want to win the title with this bike. I need to keep working on it, as battles ahead are going to be tough. The start of the season was good but there are many races to come. I hope we are going to do a good job.

How do you look forward to the race at the BIC?

A good start... Kenan Sofuoglu and team-mate Fabien Foret at the Buddh International Circuit. Sofuoglu won the World Supersport racing's season opener in Australia while Foret finished fourth.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

This is a big pressure for everyone because this is like our home track. We have to earn a good result here, but I think my bike, myself, we are good enough.

How do you like the BIC?

The circuit is very nice and very new. I feel it is not easy.

Your aspiration? Are you thinking of going to the Superbike race?

Yeah. We are speaking about this, maybe next year we will go to (race in) Superbike.

Tell us about your family connection with bike racing. Two of your brothers were also bike racers…

In 2002 — when I was 16 — I lost one of my brothers. He was crossing the street from our home when he died in a car accident. In 2008, my second brother died during racing. I am the only one left. Two years ago, my father, who was supporting us very much, died when he was 53 or 54. It was a big shock. I am now alone with my mother. My life has been really difficult on this part. However, these things have not broken me. I still continue; I still love my job. I cannot do without racing. My life has been up and down, but nothing is in my hand.

Is your mother concerned about your decision to keep racing?

My mother is really pushing me to stop racing, but I am telling myself I do not like to do any business. I am a born sportsman. Life is dangerous — in the flight, in the car, everywhere life is dangerous. You cannot stop it.

Why did you choose a new team such as MRTI?

We were speaking to Kawasaki (the official team). Last year, when I worked with Kawasaki, there was this Indian team and it looked like it is really doing a good job and wants to do a good job. It wanted to do everything the best. And Kawasaki offered me to be in this team. And, I was interested in this thing because I like India... Turkish people love Indians... It is nice to be with people who are more like mine and then I made the decision.

You had a meeting with Mahi (Dhoni). What did you people discuss?

The Mahi racing crew with team owner Mahendra Singh Dhoni (third from right).-

We discussed normal things in life. He is a really nice person. The words he said I really loved. He said, ‘I am someone anyone can beat.’ He is normal. He is not like ‘No one can be like me.’ Personally, I do not like this kind of people. My family was very poor when I started racing, no money, we did not have any option. Mahi also comes from a small city and is now a big star. And he knows where he comes from and that is very important.

Did Mahi speak about his motorcycles? Did he mention any particular bike?

He has many motorcycles. He loves motorcycles, and I am really surprised he knows so much about motorcycles… He has an old bike and he has some new bikes. He said, ‘I do not accept anyone touching my old bike. You can take the new bikes because I can buy it from the shop again. The old one I cannot find it anymore.’

Do you know anything about cricket?

Not much. In Turkey, we do not know about cricket. Now I am in Mahi team. I am learning it. Maybe, if one day I can go to watch cricket, I can get much more idea about it.