The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team head to the Losail International Circuit in Qatar this weekend, to contest the final round of the 2018 FIM World Supersport Championship. Lucas Mahias and Federico Caricasulo go into the final race determined to end the season on a high, with both riders targeting the top step of the podium on Saturday evening as they bid for a place in the top three of the final championship standings.
Mahias currently holds the advantage, with back-to-back podium finishes in France and Argentina securing him fourth place in the series standings going into this weekend’s season finale. The Frenchman arrives in Qatar knowing that he needs to repeat the success of last year, when he won the race and was crowned as the 2017 World Supersport Champion, if he is to stand any chance of claiming third in the championship from Randy Krummenacher, who currently has a 15-point advantage over the GRT Yamaha rider.
The same is true of Caricasulo, who has slipped to fifth in the championship standings on 132 points after two difficult rounds in France and Argentina, where crashes in both races meant he secured just three points with a 13th place finish at Magny-Cours. The Italian was fourth in Qatar 12 months ago but knows that he needs to rediscover the form that saw him win back-to-back races in Misano and Portugal if he is to challenge Krummenacher and his GRT Yamaha teammate for a top three finish in the championship.
While Yamaha has already claimed the manufacturer’s title for 2018 the team championship will be finally decided this weekend in Qatar. GRT Yamaha currently top the standings, but with only a 10 point advantage over their closest rivals two good results from Mahias and Caricasulo in the final race will be critical to the team’s title aspirations.
The 5.38km Losail International Circuit is located 30km north of Doha in Qatar and plays host to the only night race on the WorldSSP calendar. Opened in 2004, this will be the ninth time the circuit has held a WorldSBK round and the track itself consists of 16 corners, ten right and six left-handed, plus a start/finish straight that is over a kilometre long. Providing a mix of fast-flowing corners and some technical slower sections, it has become a firm favourite with the riders and its layout always seems to provide an exciting spectacle under the floodlights for the fans.
The Qatar Round follows a different schedule than most, with just the WorldSBK & WorldSSP classes involved and the track action taking place in the evening from Thursday-Saturday. Therefore, the GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team will take to the track for Free Practice 1 on Thursday afternoon at 17.15 local time, with Friday’s qualifying starting at 17.30 and Saturday’s race also scheduled to get underway at 17.30.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team – 4th – 135 Points
“This was a special race for me last year because I realised my dream; winning the race and being crowned as the World Champion. This year my situation is different but the aim is still the same, to win on Saturday evening. It will be tough, because Qatar has a straight even longer than the one in Argentina and that’s where we lose time. But I like this track, I enjoy the fact that we race at night under floodlights and I’m ready to fight for the win to end the season on a high.”
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team – 5th – 132 Points
“The plan for this weekend is to be as fast and competitive as we’ve been throughout the season and then back that up with a strong performance in the race on Saturday evening. It won’t be easy, because the long straight here doesn’t really play to our strengths, but I’m confident that we can overcome this and be as competitive as always here in Qatar this weekend.”
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team Manager
“Our aim remains the same this weekend as it has been for the last few races; we need to go out and try to win here in Qatar if we are to have any chance of one of the riders finishing top three in the championship. We also need to think about the team championship, which we’re leading at the moment but which is very close in terms of points. We were happy to make a major contribution to Yamaha winning the manufacturer’s title this season, but to add the team title would be good for us also and just reward for everyone in the team who has worked so hard this season. Both riders like this track; they are both focused on the win so already we’re starting the weekend in a positive frame of mind. Hopefully we can finish the season here in Qatar with a win for the team and also for Yamaha, whose support has been so important for us this year.”