Mahias Fights Back for Front-Row Start in Assen
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team fought back strongly on Saturday after a tricky opening day at Round 4 of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship in Assen. Championship leader, Lucas Mahias, managed to put his setup woes from Friday behind him to qualify second on the grid for Sunday's race and maintain his 100% front-row start record in 2018. Federico Caricasulo also did not enjoy the best Friday at the TT Circuit Assen but, like his teammate, made a step on Saturday and qualified in seventh. European Supersport Cup rider Alfonso Coppola continued to make good progress on Saturday, showing constant improvement to qualify in 22nd.
Mahias bounced back in style from a tough Friday at Assen to drop into the 1:38's for the first time during the weekend in Saturday morning's FP3 session with a 1:38.786. The 29-year-old French rider continued to work hard on his bike's setup with his team during SP2 and a change halfway through the session certainly seemed to pay dividends. He went out for his final run in the 15-minute session and managed to set a stunning 1:38.085 - 0.286s off pole - on his penultimate lap to shoot up the timing screens and secure a front-row start, meaning he has been ever-present on the front row in 2018. Buoyed by his pace on Saturday, Mahias will continue to work hard with his team overnight and in Sunday morning's Warm Up to ensure the reigning WorldSSP Champion has the best feeling possible with his Yamaha R6 when the lights go out for Sunday's race.
Caricasulo ended Friday's practice in sixth overall and 0.998s off the pace but managed to improve his time in FP3 on Saturday morning to finish the session just 0.501s off the top rider with a 1:38.818. In SP2, he improved again but did not find the perfect setup for his Yamaha R6 and despite finding another three tenths to set a 1:38.569, he is slightly disappointed to be lining up for Sunday's race in seventh on the grid. The 22-year-old Italian is fourth in the overall championship standings, just nine points behind his teammate, and will work overnight on the data collected on Saturday with his team to try and find the pace he needs to fight for the victory on race day in Assen.
Coppola once again made good progress on Saturday. The 20-year-old Italian has improved in every session and, after ending Friday in 25th overall with 1:41.464, he improved significantly in FP3 to set a 1:40.859 which saw him end the session in 22nd. He managed to take over three-tenths off his best time in SP1 to set a 1:40.507, which saw him finish in 22nd, but a three-place grid penalty for riding slowly in the racing line in FP3 means the 20-year-old Italian will line up for Sunday's race in 25th on the grid.
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team are ready to come out fighting on Sunday in Assen, with the action kicking off at 9:10 am CEST for Warm Up and the 18-lap race due to start at 11:30 am. Check out the full WorldSSP qualifying results.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 2nd - 1:38.085
"Today, qualifying in second is the same as getting a pole position because I did not have a great feeling with the bike, just like in Aragon. It is strange as it is the same bike that felt so good at Phillip Island and Thailand, but here we are struggling like in Aragon. I worked a lot with the team to try and find a good solution and in the middle of SP2 we made another change and, for sure, second position was a big surprise. For tomorrow, we will try and find a solution in Warm Up and I am looking forward to a good fight in the race as you normally get here in Assen. I am confident that my team will be able to improve the bike overnight and it is always good to start the race from the front row!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 7th - 1:38.569
"We made a little step from Friday but we are not where we wanted to be. Now, we will work hard tomorrow to improve the bike so that we can be closer to the guys at the front. My issue is the feeling with the front end, so hopefully we can look at the data overnight and improve this sensation in Warm Up before tomorrow's race!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Junior Team - 22nd - 1:40.507
"We made another little step today in SP1 in closing the gap to the riders in front. The feeling with the bike is good but I have some chatter issues with the front. We have the data to look over tonight and we have a setup change to try tomorrow in Warm Up and I hope to improve again. The race will be long and physical and I will give it everything to secure the best position possible!"
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team Manager
"The team did an amazing job to recover from our bad start on Friday. They worked really hard overnight and today to solve the issue the issue with Lucas' setup and he is focused and ready to fight at the front in tomorrow's race. For Federico, we did not quite make the same step as Lucas, we are still having some issues but I am very confident that his team will be able to make a step overnight to give him the chance to fight for victory and the championship. Once again, Alfonso Coppola made good progress. We set him the target of a low 1:40 lap and he was very close to this, just missing out in the last sector. Now he has to work on his race pace for tomorrow after we focused so far mostly on his one-lap pace. He is young and hungry to improve, so we think he could have a good race tomorrow. I want to say thank you to Yamaha and to all the team for all their hard work."