Mahias: "The more relaxed I am, the faster I am!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team's Lucas Mahias fulfilled a lifelong dream by being crowned the 2017 FIM Supersport World Champion under the floodlights in Qatar after a sensationally dramatic season finale. Determined not to rest on his laurels, the 28-year-old French rider worked incredibly hard during the winter and got his title defence off to the best possible start in 2018 after winning the opening race of the season at Phillip Island from pole position. So before Round 2 in Thailand, yamaha-racing.com caught up with the man from Mont-de-Marsan to find out what becoming champion meant to him, how his approach has changed in 2018, and where he sees himself in the future…
Lucas Mahias won the 2017 WorldSSP Championship by 29 points from his nearest rival, although the championship went right down to the last race of the season in Qatar. After the first round of the 2018 season, the 2014 French WorldSSP Champion currently leads the way in the standings with 25 points after his victory in Australia:
Lucas, after all of your hard work, what did it mean to you to become World Champion?
"Honestly, winning the World Championship was a lifelong dream come true! When I started racing 10 years ago, I had just one dream, to win the WorldSSP Championship. I have raced in many classes and I have worked so hard over these ten years, with that one focus in mind, so to actually achieve it and realise the dream you have worked hard for your whole life…it's an incredible moment!"
Last season, the pressure was on right until the final race, talk us through what that was like?
"Yes, last season was very difficult as I was under, and put myself under, a lot of pressure. I was leading the championship for most of the season, which brings with it an extra type of pressure, as you feel like you have to defend your lead and it is your title to throw away. Then, after my crash at Misano, Kenan was right back in the title fight. We had some amazing battles and sometimes I came out on top, but sometimes I was second. Then came the crash in Magny-Cours. I couldn't believe it, I felt a lot of pain in my wrist and thought my chance for the title was gone, but at almost the same time I crashed, so did Kenan. One minute my championship looked in ruins, then a few moments later everything had changed. This is racing and the way things worked out in the next races meant that we both still had a chance to win the championship with it all coming down to the last race in Qatar. I actually preferred that, as it meant I only had to focus on beating Kenan and not think about anything else. If I did that, I would be World Champion. I have nothing but respect for Kenan. It was incredible he came back to race despite his injuries and, of course, I know if he didn't miss the races he did through injury, it might have been a different story but you can only beat the riders in front of you to win a championship and when I crossed the line in first in Qatar to become World Champion…it was the greatest moment of my life!"
This season, you seem much more relaxed, which you demonstrated by your dominance of Phillip Island, winning from Pole and topping nearly every session, why is this?
"Honestly, this year feels so different from last season. I feel so much more relaxed! I suppose it is normal, as this is my second year on the Yamaha R6 and with the GRT team. I have already achieved my dream, now I am hungry for more. I think I have a lot fewer nerves as I know what to expect now and this means I can just focus on enjoying riding my bike and winning races. If I am honest, this is one of the keys to my riding, the more relaxed I am, the faster I am! My mission this year is not so much to win the championship, but just to go out and enjoy riding my R6 and try to win every race."
Do you think defending your title will be harder than winning it in the first place?
"The competition this year is incredible, not only from Kenan but also from Sandro Cortese, Randy Krummenacher, Jules Cluzel and of course my teammate Federico Caricasulo. All of these riders can win races, along with a few more, and I think this is great for the championship and the Supersport class as a whole. Honestly though, right now, I am trying not think of the Championship at all, just to go out and try and win every race and enjoy myself. Maybe after five or six races, I will start to think about the title…"
Have you made any changes for 2018?
"We haven't had many updates for the season, but after a year of development, the bike is much better than it was at this point last season! Honestly, we haven't really changed anything. The team are incredible, they are very professional but we also have a really good atmosphere in the garage, which is important as I like to smile and joke with the team and enjoy the racing together, this definitely helps me to relax."
Having got your season off to the best possible start - how are you feeling heading into Round 2?
"Australia was great for us, it confirmed the pace we had last season and during preseason, which is always good. I am happy with how I felt on my R6 and genuinely enjoyed riding it. This means I head to Thailand confident I fight at the front again. The heat and humidity in Buriram can play a big part, so after Phillip Island, I have focused on training really hard in hot conditions to prepare my body as best as possible. I love racing in Thailand, it is a really nice place and the fans are incredible, I hope to put on a better show for them than I did last year when I had to retire."
You have ridden in most of the major classes, Moto2, EWC, WorldSBK, STK1000 and WorldSSP - what is your favourite and where do you see yourself in the future?
"Yes, I have pretty much ridden every type of race bike! Honestly, I had ridden in a lot of classes because I just like to race and ride motorbikes. Obviously, my focus is on this season first but I think next year I would like to move up to WorldSBK full time. I have a top-ten WorldSBK finish to my name after I filled in for an injured rider at Assen in 2016 plus I have a lot of experience riding the R1 in the Endurance World Championship and STK1000. So, after two years in WorldSSP, it feels like it would be a natural thing to do and the next step in my career!"