Mahias Takes Stunning Victory in Qatar to Become WorldSSP Champion
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team's Lucas Mahias put in a sensational performance under the floodlights in Qatar at the final round of the season, despite being under immense pressure, to take a superb victory and become the 2017 FIM Supersport World Champion. Only needing to finish in tenth to secure the title, Mahias shook off any nerves he may have been feeling and enjoyed a stunning battle at the front, highlighting his fearless character as he went on to win the race by just 0.023s in an incredible finish to the season. In the process being crowned WorldSSP champion by a margin of 29 points, adding to the Team and Manufacturer titles that the GRT Team and Yamaha had wrapped up at the last round in Magny-Cours to complete the "triple crown'. His teammate Federico Caricasulo also enjoyed a superb race, battling with his teammate at the front before just missing out on the podium due to a lack of grip in the latter stages, crossing the line in fourth to secure fifth in the overall championship standings.
Despite the pressure of having the championship on the line, Mahias had been on fire all weekend in the hot and humid conditions in the Qatari desert, topping Thursday's practice and setting a new outright lap record on his way to securing his maiden WorldSSP pole position on Friday. If he was feeling any nerves, he didn't show it as he enjoyed a blistering start to Saturday's race and immediately became involved in a superb three-way battle at the front with his teammate Caricasulo and Jules Cluzel. With the championship on the line, Mahias pulled no punches and fought valiantly, even though he only need to secure 6 points to lift the title.
With his true racing character shining through, the 28-year-old French rider led across the line for the majority of the 15-lap race, but in the latter stages he came under heavy pressure from compatriot Cluzel. Battling fiercely right to the line on his Yamaha R6, Mahias bravely gave no quarter and in a dramatic photo finish, he took the chequered flag to secure the victory - and with it the championship - by just 0.023s. It was Mahias' second win of the year in a season that has seen him on the podium at 8 out of the 12 races and this result meant he ended the 2017 season on top of the overall standings with 190 points, 29 ahead of his title rival Kenan Sofuoglu, to be crowned the 2017 WorldSSP Champion. His performance capped off a 'perfect' year for his GRT Team and Yamaha, who had already secured the Team and Manufacturers titles at the last round in Jerez.
Caricasulo qualified in seventh on Friday after showing good pace throughout the weekend and when the lights went out in Saturday's race, he shot off the line and was up to fifth by the very first corner. Charging past a number of riders, he quickly became embroiled in the excellent three-way battle at the front with his teammate and Cluzel, and was showing the kind of race pace that would see him firmly in the battle for the victory. Unfortunately, his charge through the field had taken its toll on his front tyre and in the last three laps, he started to drop off the fight for the win. Battling hard despite a clear lack of grip, he was caught and passed by Sofuoglu on the very last lap, just missing out on what would of been his fifth podium of the season as he crossed the line in fourth, just 3.845s behind his teammate.
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team have enjoyed an incredible year and will now head into the winter break full of confidence that they can defend their title in 2018.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 30:39.805
"It is an incredible feeling! I started riding properly ten years ago and if you had said to me then I would be the WorldSSP Champion I would have said it was impossible but I have worked hard these last ten years and now it has happened...it still hasn't sunk in yet! The race was really difficult, because all the different outcomes were going through my head Should I push or not push? I obviously didn't want to crash but, if I am honest, I really wanted to win the race to become champion as that is much better. It is an incredible feeling, I am very, very happy! Thank you to Yamaha, the whole of the GRT Team, and my family. I also want to say congratulations to Kenan for an awesome season, to finish second in the championship after his two big crashes and to come here and even be able to ride, let alone finish on the podium...it's incredible! I am not stupid, if Kenan did not crash at the beginning of the year and at Magny-Cours, I would have finished second in the championship, but this is racing and I am just happy to be champion!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 4th +3.845s
"I am happy with the weekend! I feel we did a really good job! This was only the second time I have ridden here and it was probably, for me, the worst track on the calendar but now I feel confident and will be even better next year. I enjoyed the race and was battling at the front for the first 12-13 laps but, by then, I had destroyed my front tyre and it was impossible to fight for the victory. I tried to defend third and secure another podium, but it was not to be, although fourth meant I finished the season fifth in the championship and I really feel next year I can fight for the title. I am really happy for the team and Lucas, he deserved this title so much. He had a brilliant season and did not make any mistakes, he was always clever and fast and this was his championship, so congratulations to him and the team on winning the title!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team Manager
"At this moment, I am honestly lost for words after what has been an incredible season! I just want to say thank you. Thank you to Lucas and Federico who are both fantastic riders and to every single member of my team because they have shown an incredible level of professionalism throughout the season but, most importantly, to Yamaha who have given us this chance to show what we can do and the fact that we won the championship, the team title and the manufacturers title says it all! It will be a season I will never forget! Today Lucas was simply sensational, to ride like he did when he was under so much pressure was incredible. To take pole position and then win the race with the championship on the line when he only needed to finish in tenth just shows you the kind of guy he is. Federico had another very strong weekend. He has finished the season in brilliant style and I think next year both riders will be battling it out for the title. What a season, what a year...bring on 2018!"
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Project Manager
"This has been a really special season for Yamaha as we won the triple crown of rider, team and manufacturer's titles! This is an achievement that everyone who is involved with Yamaha should be very proud of. Lucas is fully deserving of being crowned the 2017 WorldSSP Champion and the way he won the race today, despite being under such pressure, just shows you what a great rider he is. The GRT Team have had a fantastic year, showcasing to the entire world how professional and competitive they are and the team has managed to create a very special atmosphere and winning spirit within itself. For Yamaha, the importance of winning the manufacturers title cannot be overstated and it is a testament to the amount of effort everyone has put in what is a highly competitive class. I want to say a huge thank you to all of the guys that made this possible, Lucas & Federico, plus Kallio Racing's Niki Tuuli and Sheridan Morais who also contributed a huge amount. Finally, I want to personally thank all of the members of the GRT Yamaha Team, led by Filippo Conti, who put in such a sensational effort this year to make all of this possible!"