MS Dhoni's motorcycle mates
Kenan Sofuoglu, the reigning and three-time World Supersport (WSS) Champion, and his colleague Fabien Foret, also a former world champion � are two of the fastest men on earth on motorcycles. The two, who are part of the Mahi Racing Team � owned by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, speak to Dhiman Chattopadhyay on life and death on the tracks, racing for Mahi's team this year and cricket
What Sebestian Vettel can do on four wheels, these men can do on two! So if Vettel has 48 podium finishes in his 103-race career and is a three-time world champion, Kenan is one step ahead: an equal three world championship titles and 48 podium finishes from a mere 69 career races! Yet, does the name Kenan Sofuoglu ring a bell as you read this piece? It probably doesn’t. But soon, very soon, it will!
The fastest man on two wheels was in India recently along with his colleague and former world champion Fabien Foret. Both of them are part of the Mahi Racing team owned by MS Dhoni. And between admiring the Taj at Agra and feasting on some biryani and kebabs the two also had a look around the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida where the final race of the WSS season will be held this November. They also agreed to answer a few questions when we caught up with them.
World Championship dreams
Kenan: I started racing in 2000 when I was 16. I always dreamt of being a world champion. Turkey has never been known for motorsport champions and I wanted to change that. I finally managed to gain entry to the World Supersport championships in 2006. I won the title the following year. It was an amazing feeling, a dream come true.
Fabien: I am an old-timer. I started racing back in 1996 in the French 125 series. I have been a WSS racer for the past 13 years. I won the title in 2002 and 11 years later, I am still a top contender. I leave the rest to you.
Kenan: I briefly moved to the Superbike championship in 2008 but found that I could not adjust to the conditions there. So I returned to Supersport in 2010. Those two years were a tough time. Many times I thought of giving up racing. But once I returned to WSS, I knew I had come back to where I belonged. In 2010 and 2012 I won the WSS title again.
Tragedy and motivation
Kenan: I had two brothers and a sister. Both my brothers died in motorsport-related accidents. One brother died in a road accident and in 2008, my eldest brother, who was also a motorcycle race champion, died on the tracks in an accident. I was shattered and stopped racing. But in Turkey, if you are not racing what do you do? Most people run businesses but I knew I was too lazy to be an entrepreneur. I knew nothing else but racing. Then I remembered that it was my brothers’ dream to send me to WSS and to give Turkey a world champion. Even in death, they motivated me and inspired me to return to the tracks.
Love for the sport
Kenan: People ask me if I have any goals left after winning three world titles. But I love the sport. I enjoy the thrill. That’s what keeps me going.
Fabien: I still enjoy what I am doing. This is the greatest thrill I have known. That I can still finish in the top three or four in most races at 39 years of age shows how competitive I have remained. It’s only because I love the sport so much.
Part of Team Mahi
Kenan: I rejoined the Kawasaki stable in 2012 and am now proud to be a part of the Mahi Racing Team. We are a fabulous team. We are well prepared and as you can see, we already have a podium finish in the opening race of the season. I am glad I made the right choice. Mahi is a great guy, very friendly and crazy about bikes, which is great for us.
Fabien: It’s a new challenge and one that I am enjoying. We met Mahi over lunch last year and this year too. I had heard about his passion for motorsport, but was blown away to hear he had nearly two dozen motorcycles. I am loving it here.
Cricket and India
Kenan: No one plays cricket in Turkey. Maybe Mahi can teach me a bit and I can go back to Turkey and teach kids cricket back home! Apart from learning cricket I visited the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort this time with my mother.
Fabien: This is my second visit to India. The Taj Mahal was awesome. I have seen nothing like this before. And yes, I am picking up a few pointers about cricket.
Buddh International Circuit
Kenan: It’s a great track I am sure. The F1 races were held here last year and this year WSS and F1 will both be held here. We are not allowed to ride on the track before the races so we just walked around the track. It looked truly world class.