Pole Position for Mahias as GRT Yamaha Dominate Qualifying in Argentina
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team were the dominant force in qualifying at Circuito San Juan Villicum this afternoon. Lucas Mahias secured his fifth pole position of the season in today's Superpole shootout while Federico Caricasulo finished a close second to make it a GRT Yamaha one-two at the front of the grid for the first ever WorldSSP race in Argentina tomorrow.
Mahias and Caricasulo, who finished FP3 this morning in second and third place respectively, went with different strategies in the Superpole 2 qualifying session this afternoon. While Caricasulo went with a traditional one-stop strategy, Mahias opted to stay out on one tyre for the duration of the 15-minute session.
The two GRT Yamaha riders were leading the field by the halfway point in the session but it was Mahias, timing his final run to perfection, who took the honours at the line to secure his fifth pole position of the season and to claim the 2018 Tissot Superpole award with one round still remaining.
The front row start will be critical in tomorrow's race for both Mahias and Caricasulo, as the Circuito San Juan Villicum is very much a single line track at present. While there are many overtaking opportunities around the length of the 4.276km circuit, they all require a rider to move offline onto the much dirtier sections of the newly laid surface, where grip is much harder to find and risk of a crash is increased.
Starting at the front of the grid also means that the two GRT Yamaha riders are less likely to encounter problems with debris being thrown up by riders ahead of them, which has been an issue this weekend as small areas of the tarmac have broken up and left small stones loose on the track surface.
Tomorrow's 19-lap WorldSSP race gets underway at 14.30 local time at the San Juan Villicum circuit.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - P1 - 1:43.026
"Of course, I'd take the win tomorrow over pole position today, but I'm very happy to qualify on pole here in Argentina. It was a strange qualifying because the track here is very dirty, which makes it difficult to get heat into the tyre. I changed the strategy today, running with no stop in the session and using only one tyre. After two laps, with the rear sliding a lot, I was questioning the decision. But I backed off the gas for a couple of laps to let the tyre cool off and then I sat behind my teammate, about three seconds back, and by pushing to catch him I took the pole position. It's good for me and the team, but it's also good for the race to start at the front because, on this track, you only have one line and it's difficult to overtake."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - P2 - 1:43.328
"I am really happy, because my time in Superpole was done alone and I managed two flying laps with virtually the same lap time. Today we also did a lot of work with the bike, to adapt to the changing track conditions, and we have a good set-up for the race. The track was a little bit better today, more grip and faster, but the stones thrown up by the bikes are still an issue, which is why it's so important we're starting from the front row tomorrow."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - Team Manager
"It was a perfect qualifying, but that's what we have to do; be first and second whenever it's possible, including tomorrow in the race, the most important part of the weekend. The riders did an incredible job today, but so did the team, who had to adapt the bikes very quickly to compensate for the rapidly changing track conditions here in Argentina. We went with two different strategies in qualifying, with Federico splitting the session into two runs, whereas Lucas opted to stay out on one tyre for the entire time. Each strategy working well, but it was Lucas who just did enough to secure pole position from his teammate. Now we're looking forward to tomorrow's race, where again I am confident we'll have both riders fighting at the front, as they have done in the last few races. Thanks to the team for their hard work and for Yamaha for the incredibly competitive package they provide us with every weekend."