Öncü on his ‘first, not last’ podium; Sofuoglu believes "this is the beginning"

Wednesday, 8 September 2021 05:48 GMT

The Turkish rider secured his first WorldSSP podium in Race 2 at Magny-Cours after fending off the challenge from teammate Philipp Oettl.

A Turkish rider returned to the FIM Supersport World Championship podium for the first time since 2017 at the Motul French Round when Can Öncü (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) claimed third place in Race 2 at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in a hard-fought race after resisting a challenge from teammate Philipp Oettl in the closing stages of the 12-lap encounter.

Öncü made progress on the opening lap of the race with an incredible move into the right-hand hairpin of Turn 5, Adelaide, to immediately challenge for the podium places. From here he was able to put pressure on the riders ahead of him in the early stages before slowly dropping back, while teammate Oettl had also started fought his way to fight for a podium.

In the first half of the race, Turkish star Öncü was able to keep Oettl around six tenths behind but as the race progressed he found his teammate edging closer and closer with the pair separated by only two tenths as they crossed the line at the end of the 12-lap battle, with Öncü claiming his first WorldSSP podium. It was also the first podium for a Turkish rider since five-time Champion Kenan Sofuoglu since Qatar in 2017.

Öncü, who became the youngest winner in a Grand Prix race when he won in Moto3™ at Valencia in 2018 at just 15 years old, said after the race: “I’m just very happy. It was a very difficult race. I was never in the front and in this race, I spent every lap at the front and tried to manage the gap. My teammate was behind me, he tried to attack. When I saw him, I got more motivated he’s normally a very fast rider. When I pass him, I get more motivated. On the last laps, he tried to pass me. I’m really happy. This will be the first podium, not the last one.”

Sofuoglu, who manages Öncü as well as Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Bahattin Sofuoglu (Biblion Yamaha Motoxracing), spoke about Öncü’s success and outlined the next steps for him, saying: “I think Can, in the last few races, was doing a great job, honestly. We were expecting to see him on the podium. Especially in the last four races, we always started to see him on the screen and he’s starting to come to the front, but he didn’t have enough pace. We worked with him at our training in Turkey to keep his good pace for longer. He has been great in the practice we do here together with Toprak and Bahattin. Honestly, we were all waiting for the Can’s first podium. It happened in Magny-Cours and we are so happy after a lot of effort.

“When we took him from the GP paddock to the WorldSBK paddock, he had hard times. It was not easy. But this year, with Kawasaki and Puccetti, they grew him slowly but strongly. I believe we are doing a great job. If you look at the last few races, Can is coming step by step. He was only losing in the last part of the race. I believe this is the beginning. I don’t know how much more, this year, we can see him on the podium. I can give you one guarantee: next year, Can will be very strong. Especially now he knows he can get a podium and now I don’t know whether can win a race this year. But I know one thing, Can will be really ready for next season. We will see a very competitive rider in WorldSSP next season. We are working on it. Also, it took a long time for Toprak. Today he is very strong but in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, all these years we tried to make Toprak ready for these days. It’s exactly the same investment for Can now and I believe we are in a good way.”

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