Mahias Sets The Pace on Opening Day in Qatar
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team's Lucas Mahias dominated proceedings on the opening day of action under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, setting the fastest time in both WorldSSP free practice sessions. Federico Caricasulo used today's track time to work on race set-up on his Yamaha YZF-R6 but still posted a time less than a second off that of his teammate to finish the day seventh on combined times.
Mahias, who was disqualified from the Portuguese race back in September, was reinstated as the winner of the ninth round of the FIM Supersport World Championship in Portugal, following an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The ruling by the CAS, which was handed down yesterday, meant that Mahias was awarded the 25 points for the race win in Portimão, elevating him from fourth to third place in the championship standings.
Mahias arrived in Qatar determined to end his season with a third race win and was fast from the off in this afternoon's opening WorldSSP free practice session, setting the fastest time despite a dusty track surface making traction difficult to find.
The GRT Yamaha rider continued the same form later in the evening, leading for most of the second 50-minute session before his rivals were able to make the most of the improving conditions towards the end to better his time. Undeterred, Mahias waited until his very final flying lap to reclaim the top spot with a time of 2'00.876.
Caricasulo is confident of closing the gap to his teammate tomorrow, having spent both sessions today working to refine his set-up for Saturday's race. The Italian and his crew have identified sector three as the place where they can find the most improvement, so this is where they will focus their attention overnight, as they work through the data to find a solution ahead for the final free practice session and the all-important qualifying tomorrow.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - P1 - 2:00.876
"I'm happy to have been reinstated as the winner in Portimão as a result of the appeal, because there was no doubt in my mind that I won that race. Now it's like I've won it twice! It was good to get the CAS ruling ahead of this weekend so that the final championship standings are decided here on Sunday and not weeks afterwards. Last year here I was riding for the championship but this weekend I'm riding only for the race win, so it's a different feeling and definitely less stressful! I like this track; the lap time was very fast, maybe close to qualifying pace once again, and my rhythm was good over the longer run in the second session today, so I'm happy and I'm looking forward to enjoying the last race of the season here in Qatar."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - P7 - 2:01.825
"Today we worked a lot on both the bike and the rhythm during the two sessions, but at the moment the gap to the top of the timesheet is a little bit too much. Once we get a chance to go through the data tonight I'm confident that we can find the improvements we need to be back at the front tomorrow. I'm losing all of my time in the third sector, so that's the area on which we need to focus and in which we need to improve."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - Team Manager
"Obviously we're happy that the CAS made such a ruling before the final race of the season and also that they found in favour of Lucas, who has now has been reinstated as the winner of the Portimão race. The points are important for him, as he looks to finish the season in the top three of the championship, but they're also important in terms of the team championship, which is very close at the top. Lucas did a great job today, topping the timesheet in both sessions with his fastest laps, but also putting in the work to make sure his pace in race trim was strong. Federico also made a good job today. He's not where we normally expect to see him on the timesheet, but this isn't a true reflection of his pace. Today he was losing all of his time in sector three, so this is where we need to focus our efforts tonight. I'm confident that he and his crew can find a solution and that he'll be more competitive and much closer to the top of the timesheet in practice and qualifying tomorrow. Today the team have again done an incredible job and I hope they will be rewarded on Saturday with the team championship title."