GRT Yamaha Dominate on Friday at Imola
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team were a cut above the rest on Friday at a hot and sunny Imola, Round 5 of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship. Local hero Federico Caricasulo treated the Italian fans as he ended the day on top of the combined timesheets with a stunning 1:51.190. There was hardly anything to separate him from his teammate and current WorldSSP Championship leader, Lucas Mahias, as he topped FP1 and finished Friday in second overall after setting a 1:51.241, despite missing most of FP2 due to a minor technical issue. European Supersport Cup rider Alfonso Coppola also showed superb progress as he got to grips with the Yamaha YZF-R6 around the iconic Imola circuit for the first time, ending the day in 29th overall.
Caricasulo has been waiting all season to race in front of the passionate Italian fans, with the 22-year-old relishing the chance to put on a show at his home round and he did just that. Getting straight to work in FP1 he showed scintillating pace, ending the session in the hot and humid conditions in second place after setting a 1:51.442 to finish just 0.201s behind his teammate at the top. In the afternoon's FP2 he went even quicker, showing excellent skill and bravery around the technically challenging Imola circuit to improve to a 1:51.190, ending the day on top of the combined timesheets to ensure his automatic progress into Saturday's SP2 and sending the Italian fans home happy.
Reigning WorldSSP Champion - and current championship leader - Mahias was just 0.051s behind his teammate in second after he also showed incredible pace throughout the day. The 28-year-old French rider leads the overall standings by one point and after a tricky last couple of rounds he flew out of blocks in FP1 to set a sensational 1:51.241, topping the session from his teammate Caricasulo. At the start of FP2, he suffered a minor technical issue that meant he had to push his bike back to the pits, an exhausting feat in the stifling heat and humidity at Imola. After his exertions, he did not quite have the energy to try for a hot lap, instead choosing to spend the rest of the session on used tyres and work on his race pace. Despite not improving his best lap time during FP2, his pace on older rubber was impressive and his time from FP1 was good enough to secure second overall and join his teammate in SP2. Having rediscovered the feeling with his GRT Yamaha R6, Mahias will head into Saturday confident there is more to come and looking to record his third pole position of the season.
European Supersport Cup rider Coppola is also racing at his home round and the 20-year-old Italian continued to show the progress that has been his trademark in 2018. It was the first time he had ridden the Yamaha R6 around the physically demanding Imola circuit after stepping up from WorldSSP300 last season and he applied himself superbly, improving every time he took to the track. He ended FP1 in 29th after setting a 1:55.979 and then in the afternoon's FP2 he impressively managed to improve by over a second to record a 1:54.874. This saw him end the day in 29th overall and he is confident that after studying today's data with his team he will be able to make even more improvements on Saturday. Check out Friday's combined practice results.
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team return to action on Saturday morning at 9:15 am (CEST) local time for FP3 at Imola, with qualifying scheduled to start at 2 pm.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 1:51.190
"I am feeling really good because it is great to be on top of the timesheets at my home race. I have been waiting all year for my home races here and at Misano and I ended today in P1, which is perfect, so I am happy! The bike worked really well but we can improve for tomorrow and I will work hard with the team to make sure we can go even quicker!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 2nd - 1:51.241
"I am happy we made a big improvement from the last two races. The team have worked really hard to improve my bike and find a solution to the problems I was having. The feeling with my R6 is much better but I am a little bit disappointed because I had a small technical problem in FP2 and had to run and push the bike back to the pits, which in the hot conditions was very tiring, and meant I missed a lot of the session. The fact I was tired made it hard for me to improve so I feel I could have set a better lap time. It is great for the team to have us both at the front and the gap to my teammate is small. I didn't use a fresh tyre in FP2, so I know there is more to come tomorrow."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Junior Team - 29th - 1:54.874
"The first Free Practice 1 was a lot of fun. Imola is an incredible circuit but it is completely different to ride on the R6 than it was on the R3 last season, it is a lot more physical. I studied the data we collected with my team and in FP2 I worked on my racing lines, managing to improve my best lap by over a second, which was a good step. This is very important as I need to keep on improving step by step and keep getting faster. For tomorrow, I hope to follow Federico or Lucas for a couple of laps to understand the best racing lines on the R6 which are so important here at Imola."
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team Manager
"Today we are very happy because we made a very good start. A good Friday performance is important as it sets up the whole weekend. It is our target to always be fighting at the front to allow our riders the best chance to win the championship. Lucas did an incredible job today, especially when you consider he had a small technical issue that meant he missed most of FP2. This meant we had to change our plans slightly but he did a superb job and he has a very strong race pace. Federico was also incredible! We know he is very fast here at Imola but we were impressed with not only his one-lap pace but also his race rhythm. Alfonso had a very positive start, he is still learning but he is learning very quickly. He is not only improving his riding but his knowledge too and I am very proud of all three riders. I want to thank the team for doing an incredible job again and they are a fantastic group of people. Thanks to Yamaha as well for giving us such a good package that allows us to fight for the championship!"