The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team are ready to take on the Imola challenge for Round 5 of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship. Current WorldSSP Championship leader Lucas Mahias will be looking to return to the podium and extend his one-point advantage in the overall standings after finishing fourth in the last two races. After a superb start to 2018, his teammate Federico Caricasulo recorded his first DNF of the season in Assen and will want to get his championship aspirations back on track at his home round. European Supersport Cup rider Alfonso Coppola is another local hero looking to continue the progress he has shown so far in 2018 and fight for his first championship points in front of the Italian fans.
Mahias arrives in Imola still leading the way in the championship standings, despite being frustrated to miss out on the podium at the last two rounds. After winning at Phillip Island and battling to second in Thailand, the last two races in Aragon and Assen have seen Mahias’ (71 points) lead in the WorldSSP Championship standings reduced to just one point heading into Round 5. Fresh from his second fourth-place finish in a row at the last round Assen – missing out on the race win by just 0.341s in a dramatic finish – and after a positive two-day private test in Brno, the 28-year-old French rider is confident he can be back fighting for the victory in Imola, a track where he stormed to second in last year’s race.
His teammate Caricasulo has enjoyed a superb start to 2018, finishing in fourth in Australia before crossing the line in third in Thailand and then making it back-to-back podiums after securing second in Aragon. Unfortunately, this impressive momentum came to an end at Assen where he crashed out of the race while battling with the leading group. It was the first time the 22-year-old Italian had not finished a race since Lausitzring last year and brought to an end a run of 7 top-seven finishes in a row. Caricasulo now occupies fifth overall in the championship standings with 49 points, 22 behind his teammate, and will be looking to return to the podium in front of the Italian fans at his – and the team’s – home round Imola after being forced to retire from last year’s race at the track.
European Supersport Cup rider Alfonso Coppola showed good progress once more at Assen as the inaugural Yamaha R3 bLU cRU Challenge winner and runner-up in the overall 2017 WorldSSP300 Championship continues to adjust to the Yamaha R6. After a DNF at the first race in Aragon, the 20-year-old Italian bounced back with a mature ride to 20th on board his GRT Yamaha R6 in Assen and is now hoping to secure his first championship points at his home round at Imola, a track he knows well after a superb ride to second in the WorldSSP300 race last year.
The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola first hosted a motorcycle race in 1953 and is a firm favourite amongst supporters and riders alike, due to its fast but technical nature. Located 40km east of Bologna the 4.936km circuit is named after the Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari and his son Dino. The layout of the track has changed considerably over the years and it is one of the few tracks on the calendar that runs anti-clockwise. It now consists of 22 corners and combines high speed turns along with a number of chicanes and the Tosa Hairpin, with a longest straight of just 358m.
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team hit the track for the first time at the Imola circuit on Friday at 10:40 am local time (CEST) for Free Practice 1, with Saturday’s qualifying due to start at 2 pm and Sunday’s 17-lap race scheduled for 11:30 am.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team – 1st – 71 points
“I am ready for Round 5 of the season in Imola! Last year the race was tricky here due to the red flags, but I still managed to finish in second. We worked hard at the Brno test to try and improve the bike and I hope to be able to return to the podium this weekend.”
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team – 5th – 49 points
“I can’t wait for my home race! The Italian fans are amazing and always create a very special atmosphere. My aim for the weekend is to try and fight for the victory in front of the Italian fans. I worked hard with the team at the test to get the feeling back with R6 after Assen and I am looking forward to battling at the front once again in Imola!”
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Junior Team
“I am really looking forward to racing in front of the Italian fans in Imola. We are two races into the season and I feel that my adaptation to the bigger bike and class is going well. Imola is a very challenging track to ride on a Supersport bike as it is very technical. I had a good test in Brno and I will try and take a step forward to try and reduce the gap to the leading riders. I am really excited to ride at my home race as an official Yamaha rider and hopefully, I can score some points!”
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team Manager
“We are excited about our home round after we had a really good test in Brno! We tested many things and both Lucas and Federico showed great pace and had a chance to work on some things we think will help at Imola. For both riders, we want to get back to the feeling they had in the first two races at our home round in Imola. The team have been working very hard to ensure both Lucas and Federico have a good feeling with their R6’s so they can ride to their best. Every round is crucial now and the level is always getting higher, so the team has been working very hard to put us in the strongest position during the weekend to give them the best chance to fight for victory. Alfonso also had a good test and he is building his confidence in WorldSSP and on the R6 and we are happy with the potential he has shown and the progress he is making. We cannot wait to race in front of the Italian fans at Imola!”