GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team rider Lucas Mahias will start the final race of the 2018 FIM World Supersport Championship from the front of the grid, after claiming his sixth pole position of the season in Qatar today. Federico Caricasulo will start tomorrow’s 15-lap race from the third row, after qualifying in seventh position during this evening’s floodlit Superpole shootout.
Mahias has been fast from the off here at the Losail International Circuit, topping both free practice sessions yesterday and ending the third, held this afternoon in very different conditions to those the Frenchman will face in the race tomorrow, comfortably inside the top five.
In Superpole Mahias went straight to the top of the timesheet, claiming provisional pole position on his first qualifying run. Despite the best efforts of his rivals the GRT Yamaha rider’s time wasn’t bettered, until Mahias himself went more than half a second quicker on his second run to beat his own qualifying record from last year and put pole position well and truly out of reach.
The goal for Mahias in tomorrow’s race is clear; to repeat the success that saw him win from pole position at the Losail International Circuit last year, to end what has been a challenging season for the reigning World Champion on a high.
Caricasulo remains confident he can be involved in the battle at the front of the 15-lap season finale, despite starting from the head of the third row of the grid tomorrow. After a difficult opening day, the young Italian recovered during this afternoon’s third and final free practice session, which he finished ahead of his GRT Yamaha teammate in fourth.
In this evening’s Superpole shootout Caricasulo looked all set to secure a place on the second row of the grid, which had been his goal ahead of the session but lost out to Kyle Smith who just beat the GRT Yamaha rider for sixth place at the chequered flag.
Lights out for tomorrow’s 15-lap WorldSSP encounter under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit is at 17.30 local time.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team – P1 – 2:00.461
“So far it’s been the perfect weekend and I’m very happy. I like this track and I like racing at night under the lights, maybe I’m a bit nocturnal! I was pushing hard for pole position in Superpole today and I was able to better my own record, so we’re in a strong position ahead of the race. I’m confident going into tomorrow because this is a track that suits my style; long, fast corners where it’s more about carrying speed than hard braking and acceleration. There’s a long straight where it’s easy to pass out of the slipstream so we need to be aware of this, but I will definitely be racing to win tomorrow and I intend to enjoy the last race of the season.”
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team – P7 – 2:01.570
“Today was not so easy, but the feeling with the bike was a little better than yesterday. Unfortunately the one-off fast lap time wasn’t as good as I was hoping for, but I think we’ll be in a better position for the race, especially if we can make some more small improvements to the bike tomorrow. A good start and then a few aggressive and fast laps will be critical tomorrow, but I’m confident I can be in the fight with the leading group.”
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team – Team Manager
“Lucas likes this track and is very strong here, as we saw in qualifying when he broke his own record from last year to claim pole position once again. He and his team did a great job today. They tried something in FP3 that didn’t give the improvements expected, so ran a different set-up in Superpole, which worked really well. But it’s not only with the one-off fast lap where he’s strong; his race pace is also extremely fast and consistent, which makes us very confident for tomorrow. Federico didn’t have such a good feeling with the bike yesterday, but we made some changes ahead of FP3 and there was a definite improvement, both with the bike and his lap time. What we were missing today was the hot lap, but the team is working now to improve things further for tomorrow, because we know Federico always finds that little bit extra in the race. Thanks to the team for all their work, because this last round is very important for both us and for Yamaha.”