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Sofuoglu says Oncu ban unfair, likens ‘aggressive’ Moto3 to Hamilton, Verstappen

Five-time WorldSSP champ Kenan Sofuoglu takes aim at the FIM for banning his protege Deniz Oncu from two Moto3 races for triggering an accident at COTA

Kenan Sofuoglu


Five-time WorldSSP Champion Kenan Sofuoglu has courted controversy after claiming the two-race ban levelled at his Moto3 World Championship protege Deniz Oncu is ‘unfair’ and that the aggressive racing is simply part of the series.

Having brought his hugely successful career to an end in 2018, Sofuoglu has since focused on developing burgeoning Turkish talent, most notably WorldSBK title contender Toprak Razgatlioglu, plus the Oncu brothers - Deniz and Can, who competes in WorldSSP - and his cousin Bahattin Sofuoglu, a race winner in WorldSSP 300.

It was Deniz Oncu that hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons during the Grand Prix of The Americas at COTA when his sweep across to tuck into a slipstream down the back straight, instead resulted in contact and sent him down. 

The stricken bike was then struck by Andrea Migno, who caught a lot of air before coming down, while championship leader Pedro Acosta also suffered a fast fall. 

While the race was red flagged and all three riders could restart and score points, it was Oncu as the trigger that prompted fevered debate in the paddock, with several MotoGP riders calling for him to be thrown out of the championship. The FIM later confirmed he had been banned for two races.

 

It comes as the governing body is coming under pressure to crack down harder on riders in Moto3 for riding standards following a number of high-profile incidents and near-misses. The accident in COTA came a week after the death of Dean Berta Vinales in a WorldSSP 300 race in Jerez, the result of him falling in a large group and being struck by a bike behind him. 

While Sofuoglu - who trains Oncu - notes the loss of Vinales, he says the penalty levelled on his rider was unfair. Comparing the fights in Moto3 to those between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in F1, Sofuoglu believes aggressive racing is what is required in Moto3 and to single Oncu out isn’t right.

"My drivers have a very intensive training session, we fight every lap," told Speedweek.  “We try to attack without touching the other. Attacking isn't easy, we don't play a game - my drivers don't play a game. We also see in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport, that people like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen drive very aggressively. To be successful, you have to be aggressive, it's part of this sport. Today drivers complain too much."

"For me, the decision against Deniz is not fair. You just have to watch the videos, I see much more dangerous manoeuvres than Deniz's. For me, the main reason riders complain about my boys is because they are so strong. Because you can't beat him. So they look for reasons to complain. 

“We all deeply regret the loss of Dean Vinales, we are all very sorry for that. But now Dorna has made an example of Deniz and Bahattin. To show that anyone who drives aggressively can be punished in this way. But that's not fair to my drivers. You have to watch the whole race, every driver. Deniz didn't deserve that. 

“That this fall happened was very unfortunate. But that's how races are done today in Moto3 and the Supersport 300 class. Everyone tries to follow the man in front in order to use his slipstream. One thing is certain about my drivers: we train more than others, we work more than others and we train under racing conditions on every single lap. 

“We drive aggressively, right. But it is very important to me that this happens without touching. If you just chase after your opponents, you'll never win a race. A winner has to find a way to get past the opponent - for example with very tight lines."