Mahias Gets WorldSSP Title Defence Off to the Perfect Start in Phillip Island
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team's Lucas Mahias got his title defence off to the best imaginable start at the opening round of 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship on Sunday at Phillip Island. The reigning champion was in devastating form in the restarted nine-lap sprint race, starting from pole and leading across the line for every lap before winning by 1.274s to secure the maximum 25 points. His teammate Federico Caricasulo lined up fifth on the grid and right from the start was involved in a superb race-long battle for the rostrum, fighting right to the line and just missing out on the podium by 0.039s after crossing the line in fourth.
Sunday saw a change to the WorldSSP race after tyre degradation concerns, with it being shortened to a 16-lap flag-to-flag format and riders only allowed to complete a maximum of nine laps on one rear tyre. Mahias had been the man to beat all weekend in Phillip Island. The 2017 WorldSSP Champion topping Friday's Practice and then storming to a sensational pole position on Saturday. Focused on getting his title defence off to the best possible start, the 28-year-old French rider got the holeshot in the original 16-lap flag-to-flag race and had opened up a two-second lead by the time the red flag halted proceedings on lap 3. In the restarted nine-lap race, Mahias once again got the perfect start and disappeared off into the distance setting a blistering pace. He was simply untouchable, opening up a lead of over 1.5s and managing it comfortably until the chequered flag to cap a simply sensational weekend for the rider. That now makes it two race wins from pole position in a row for Mahias - following on from his victory in Qatar at the final round of last season - and he now leads the way in the championship standings with 25 points.
Caricasulo put in a brilliant performance in SP2 to qualify in second for Sunday's race, but a three-place grid penalty for riding slowly on the racing line saw him start Sunday's race from fifth on the gird. When the lights went out in the original race, he swiftly made his way up to second before the red flag appeared. Undeterred by the interruption, the 21-year-old Italian got another great start in the restarted race, immediately getting involved in a race-long battle for second with Randy Krummenacher on the Bardahl Evans Brothers WorldSSP Team Yamaha R6. As the race went on, it became a three-way scrap for second as a third R6 joined the mix in the shape of Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing). On a spectacular last lap, Caricasulo battled valiantly but just missed out on the podium in a dramatic sprint to the line, finishing in fourth - just 1.556s off the pace of his teammate - to complete a dominant Yamaha 1-2-3-4 across the line and collect 13 championship points.
Up next for the GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team is Round 2 of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand on the 23-25th March.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 14:07.881
"Today's race was amazing and I am very happy to have won! I was ready for the flag-to-flag race, so I was a bit gutted when the red flag came out as I already had a 2-second lead! I managed to keep calm and in the restarted race, I tried to do the same which was to push a lot at the beginning and then try and manage the tyre. I was a bit worried as I hadn't managed to do many long runs this weekend, so I wasn't sure how the tyre would hold up, but I was delighted to win the race! It was an incredible weekend for me. I won the last race of 2017 from pole position in Qatar, so to start 2018 in the same way was amazing. I am looking forward to Thailand although it can be tricky for the bike, as it is so hot. Last year I had to retire from the race but I am now feeling really relaxed and confident because the bike is good, we aren't feeling any stress in the team, and I am very excited for Round 2!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 4th +1.556s
"Today was not an easy race! I had a great start in the flag-to-flag race, but then the red flag meant I had to begin again. In the restarted race I got a good start and I thought I could battle for the victory. Unfortunately, after four laps I started to have a slight issue with my rear tyre and which made it impossible to fight for the win. Despite this, I managed to keep fighting to the line and while I am disappointed to miss out on the podium, I am happy because my team worked really well, as always, and I'm sure we will back on the podium in Thailand!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team Manager
"Today was an incredible day and I am very satisfied. Lucas was amazing! In the original race he showed sensational pace to break away at the start and, unbelievably, he managed to do exactly the same in the restarted race after the red flag. He was so fast, he was impossible to catch and the team did an incredible job. Federico got off to a really good start in the original race, making his way up to second before the red flag, which meant in the restarted race he had to do it all again. He did just that, battling back up to second with a great display of riding, but just missed out on the sprint to the line to miss our chance of a double podium. Our aim for Thailand will be to have both riders battling for the race win again. The team did an incredible job all week and I want to thank Yamaha for providing us with an amazing package and for all their support. Now we are ready and looking forward to Round 2 in Thailand!"