He is one of the most highly awaited guests in the Assen paddock. Who are we talking about? Obviously, it’s Kenan Sofuoglu, who arrived at the circuit in the late morning to closely follow Toprak's Saturday race. Its rider missed out on any chances of a possible victory, finishing Race 1 in third position.
The Turk couldn’t do much more than that in the face of the superiority of Alvaro Bautista. For the occasion, the former SSP champion and now Toprak's manager reserved this long interview for us on the current moment of his client.
“Toprak gave his all today, but he couldn't do any more than that - he said - now Ducati is in another category and fighting against Bautista is practically impossible. Obviously, he is trying to give everything he has, but aiming for the title will be very difficult. I obviously congratulate Bautista, as he is getting the maximum potential out of the bike, not only on the straights, but also in the corners, as he rides the bike impeccably and the package performs well”.
What can Yamaha do against this Ducati?
“Yamaha is working, but the situation is certainly not simple. I have great respect for Yamaha and maybe next year some things could change. The only thing we can do is try to fight and the only way to try and win the World Championship is to be lucky. It's a bit like Formula 1, where for years we have seen an impeccable combination in Mercedes".
Kenan, let's take a step back: were you at Jerez for the Toprak test?
“No, I didn't go. However, I can say that this winter we started talking about Toprak's test with the MotoGP bike at Jerez. Yamaha wanted to understand what Toprak could do with the M1 and at the same time we wanted to understand it too. At that test, however, he didn't feel comfortable on the bike, in fact he struggled a lot. I spoke to him, and he was not happy. In fact, he would need another session on the Yamaha and a development aimed at him. We need to talk to Yamaha about this, given that this isn't possible for the moment".
About MotoGP, what is the situation in the future?
“Tonight, I'll start talking to Yamaha about what to do for 2024 and by Barcelona we'll reach a final decision. I've already spoken to him, and I've been clear: I don't want to take him to MotoGP. I know Toprak, I've been following him for many years, and I think MotoGP isn't for him. I can even tell you why."
“If you want to get to MotoGP, you must grow up in that paddock, but this is Toprak's paddock, namely the Superbike. I think that in this paddock Toprak can have his say for another ten years, while in MotoGP for a much more limited period, like 2-3 years. Furthermore, in Superbike, Toprak is a star and a champion, loved by many people. When you start to lose the enthusiasm and warmth of the audience it means that you are going downhill”.
In the past, those who went to MotoGP coming from SBK didn't have much luck.
"Exactly. Look, for example, at what happened with Spies or Toseland, two great riders, who however didn't get what they hoped for. Once you get to MotoGP everyone wants the result right away and few succeed. I too experienced it on my own skin, when I went to Moto2, and I suffered a lot".
Kenan, in Italy Ducati Pramac is said to be interested in Toprak. Is it true?
“Ducati is not interested in Toprak and for the moment I have not received any kind of contact from them for MotoGP. I don't know why, at times it seems crazy to me, but this is the current situation”.
What happens now?
“My goal is to talk to Yamaha and renew the contract here in SBK, getting all the necessary guarantees. Obviously, if Toprak wants to go to MotoGP, I'll follow him, because if that's his dream, it's only right that he chases after it. In my opinion, however, the right choice for Toprak is Superbike with Yamaha, in fact the main negotiation underway is the one with Yamaha, given that Yamaha led him to win the World Championship and there is utmost respect".
If it doesn't go through?
“There are already two other manufacturers interested. My goal is to reach a decision by Barcelona."
Does BMW want him?
“I can't name names. In this paddock many want Toprak. Although he has left Kawasaki, they are still on good terms with them. You will know something by Barcelona”.