Mahias Secures Stunning Pole in WorldSSP at Phillip Island
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team enjoyed an amazing qualifying on Saturday despite strong winds and grey skies at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship at Phillip Island. Reigning champion Lucas Mahias secured the first pole position of the season with a sensational performance in SP2, setting a 1:33.160 to ensure he will start Sunday's race from the front of the grid. His teammate Federico Caricasulo was also in superb form, finishing second on the timesheets with a 1:33.510, just 0.359s off the pace off Mahias, before being issued a three-place grid penalty for riding slowly in a sector which will see him line up in fifth on the grid for the race on Sunday.
Grey skies and strong winds greeted the GRT Yamaha Team at Phillip Island on Saturday but, even though track conditions were not ideal, Mahias continued his dominant form at Phillip Island. Topping the timesheets in the morning's FP3 session, the 28-year-old French rider then went onto secure the first pole position of the season in SP2. Only managing one flying lap on his first run, Mahias was sitting in P4 with a 1:33.934 as he headed out for his final attempt in the 15-minute session. Setting the timing screens alight, he pulled off an incredible lap in the tricky conditions to claim pole with a 1:33.160. It was just the defending champion's second career WorldSSP pole position, following on from his maiden pole secured at the final round of the 2017 season in Qatar. It means he will start Sunday's race from the front of the grid, determined to repeat history and turn his pole position into a race win, just as he did under the lights at Losail.
His teammate Caricasulo was not to be outshone on Saturday, as he too showed his potential on the GRT Yamaha YZF-R6. The 21-year-old Italian had displayed good pace on Friday and maintained this into the morning's FP3 session, ending it in fifth. When the lights went out for SP2, he shot to the top of the timing screens after his first run with a 1:33.795. He wasn't done there though. On his second run, just when it looked like he would miss out on a front-row start, he put in a superb final lap to set a 1:33.510 to finish the session in second and complete a dominant performance for the GRT Yamaha team. Unfortunately, he was then issued a three-place grid penalty for riding too slowly in a sector during SP2 as he tried to avoid giving other riders a tow and will now line up on the grid for Sunday's race in the middle of the second row.
After showing their potential on Saturday, the GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team now enter into Sunday's race at Phillip Island in a great position to get their 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship off to the best possible start. Due to grip issues being suffered at the circuit, Race Direction has announced that Sunday's WorldSSP race will be shortened to 16 laps plus, if it is declared dry, it will follow the flag-to-flag format with riders not allowed to do more than 9 laps on one rear tyre. This should ensure some extra drama to what was already set to be a thrilling race when the lights go out at 1.30 pm local time on Sunday. Check out the full SP2 results.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 1:33.160
"Today we had an amazing qualifying and I am very happy to secure my second WorldSSP pole position! It was not easy because there was a strong wind in a different direction than we experienced at the test. My feeling was good but I almost crashed three times during FP3, which is not my normal style but the wind didn't help. Tomorrow, I think it will be a strange race because it is hard here at Phillip Island to open a gap at the front and it is always a very hard race as you are always battling in a big group, with everyone wanting to win the first race of the season. Every rider is fast here because we had the test, so everyone has a decent setup but I will try to win the race! Honestly, it is one of the races where you could win or finish in fifth but I am feeling very confident and I will try and take the maximum points on offer!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 2nd - 1:33.510
"I enjoyed SP2! I set the second fastest time and I had a really good feeling with my R6. Unfortunately, I have been penalised three grid positions for riding slowly in a sector because I was trying to avoid giving a tow to some riders that were following me, which means I will start tomorrow's race from fifth on the grid. My strategy tomorrow will be to push as hard as I possibly can, as with the flag-to-flag format, we should not have to worry about tyre life!"
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team
"We had a fantastic SP2! Lucas has been amazing, he feels very comfortable on the bike and his pole position today was a result of all the hard work done at the test and during the weekend. Federico as well was superb! He had a good race pace yesterday, all he was missing was a hot lap. He certainly found that to finish in second on the timesheets. Unfortunately, he has been penalised three grid positions. For tomorrow there is not really any strategy as such, as it is the beginning of the year and both riders have the chance to win and so we have to give them the best possible chance to do that. Tomorrow's race will follow the flag-to-flag format and the team are working hard to reduce the high risk of mistakes this can bring. Thank you to Yamaha to for all their support and we are looking forward to the race tomorrow!"