GRT Yamaha Team Battle Through Adversity in Assen on Friday
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team came through a testing Friday during Round 4 of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship at a hot and sunny TT Circuit Assen. Federico Caricasulo, unusually, was slow out of the blocks in FP1 before working hard throughout the day to improve and set a 1:39.114 in FP2 to finish sixth on the combined timesheets. His teammate and WorldSSP Championship leader, Lucas Mahias, also struggled to gel with his Yamaha R6 in his usual fashion but was just a further 0.141s back from Caricasulo in seventh after setting a 1:39.255, with both riders making it through automatically to Saturday's SP2.
After scoring podiums in the last two races, Caricasulo was confident he would hit the ground running at Assen but, with track temperatures uncharacteristically hitting 37°C on Friday, he struggled to find the best setup with his R6 at the legendary circuit. He was tenth fastest in FP1 after setting a 1:39.933 but undeterred, the 22-year-old Italian bounced back in the afternoon's FP2 session to improve by 0.819s and set a 1:39.114, which was good enough to finish in sixth on the overall timesheets, 0.998s behind the fastest rider. Although it was not the best of days for Caricasulo, he is confident that he can fight back in Saturday's qualifying.
Reigning WorldSSP Champion and current championship leader, Lucas Mahias, endured a tough day at Assen but fought superbly to ensure he made the most of it, despite his struggles. The 29-year-old French rider has been a permanent fixture at the top of the timesheets in nearly every session during the 2018 season, but found himself 0.969s off the pace in FP1 in fifth with a 1:39.496 after an issue with his R6 prevented him from setting a flying lap. Determined to fight back in FP2, towards the end of the session he managed a 1:38.522 that would have been good enough for third overall on the timesheets but, unfortunately, he had the lap time taken away from him for exceeding track limits. This left him in seventh overall with a time of 1:39.255 but the man from Mont-de-Marsan will work hard with his team overnight to understand the issues and come out fighting on Saturday.
European Supersport Cup rider Alfonso Coppola focused hard in just his second race weekend in the Championship. It was his first time riding the Yamaha R6 around the TT Circuit Assen but, just like in his debut at Aragon, he improved every time he went out on track. Finishing FP1 in 26th with a 1:42.317, FP2 saw him shave almost a second off his best time to set a 1:41.464 and end the day in 25th overall.
The GMT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team return to the track on Saturday morning at 9:15 am (CEST) local time for Free Practice 3, with SP2 due to start at 2:25 pm and Sunday's 18-lap race at 11:30 am.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 6th - 1:39.114
"It was a very difficult day! We worked really hard to improve my feeling with the bike but we just could not find the pace. The gap to the first rider is quite big but we will look at the data overnight and I will work hard with the team to try and make a step. We will try again tomorrow!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 7th - 1:39.255
"It was a tough day for me and I am not sure why. I have tried to find a good setup with my R6 but it has not been easy. After Thailand, Aragon, and now here in Assen, it has been hard to find a good setup and I am not sure why. My feeling with the bike is strange. Plus, we had a slight issue this morning that made it a little bit harder to understand the setup with the bike. This afternoon we made a small step but we need more. I am not angry but maybe a little bit sad because it is difficult to understand why we are struggling. We will work hard tonight as a team to try and improve the bike for tomorrow."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Junior Team - 25th - 1:41.464
"Assen is a fantastic circuit but it is very different to ride on the R6 compared to my R3 last year. The bike is heavier and you can really feel this in the chicanes when you are changing direction. As always we try to improve step by step and I will keep working on finding the best racing line and we will study the data tomorrow so we can try and make another step in FP3 and in qualifying. I want to say thank you for all the hard work done today by my team and Yamaha and I am looking forward to tomorrow!"
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team Manager
"This is the toughest Friday we have had as a team but we will come back fighting! It has been a difficult start today for Lucas and our mission is to try and make him comfortable on his R6. When he is comfortable, he is fast and at the moment we haven't quite got the feeling right which means everything becomes more difficult. It was a similar day with Federico. We started with one setting, but it wasn't right for the track, so we changed a lot and, in the end, we should have found a decent solution but we are still working on it. Alfonso made good progress, he is always improving. He has a good one-lap pace but his focus will now be on finding the consistency you need in this very competitive class. We have been very impressed with Alfonso and considering it is his first time riding the R6 here, he has done well. It may have been a tough Friday but we will learn from it and come back stronger tomorrow. I want to thank both riders, the team, and Yamaha for all their hard work, and we will take the positives from today into Saturday's qualifying."