Victory for Caricasulo in dramatic Portimão World Supersport Race
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team rider, Federico Caricasulo, started the second half of the season as he ended the first, with a win in today's dramatic World Supersport race in Portimão, which was red flagged with two laps to go following an incident at turn 11. Alfonso Coppola joined his teammate in Parc Fermé as the best placed European Supersport Cup rider, despite starting the race from pit lane. Lucas Mahias crossed the line at the head of the race on the lap prior to the red flag, but was disqualified from the results for a track limits infraction as he attempted to return to pit lane after a rear tyre failure.
It was series leader Sandro Cortese and his championship rival Jules Cluzel who made the early running at the head of the race, until a collision between the two saw them both go down at turn three on the second lap, leaving Mahias clear at the front of the race.
The only challenge to the French rider came from his GRT Yamaha teammate, Federico Caricasulo, who pushed hard to close the gap to the leader. However the Italian was unable to match the speed and consistency of Mahias, who responded by increasing his lead to close to three seconds before being forced to slow after suffering a rear tyre failure.
Caricasulo inherited the race lead shortly before a crash at turn 11 brought out the red flags and the race was brought to close with 16 of the original 18 laps completed.
With the blistered and deflated rear tyre spinning on the rim, Mahias crashed twice on his in lap, as he fought to return to pit lane within the time limit. Initially the reigning World Champion was credited with the win, but victory was eventually handed to teammate Caricasulo when Mahias was disqualified for cutting the track in the final turn as he returned to pit lane.
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team appealed the disqualification on the basis that the regulations do not specify a rider must return to pit lane via the track following a red flag, but the stewards rejected the appeal.
Today's victory, a career first first back-to-back win for Caricasulo, saw the Italian move up to third place in the championship standings with 129 points, just 20 points behind series leader Cortese with three races remaining. The disqualification means Mahias drops one place in the standings to sixth with 103 points, 46 points from the top spot.
Italian youngster Coppola managed to cap off what had been a difficult weekend with a visit to the podium, finishing today's red flagged curtailed race as the top European Supersport Cup finisher. The result was just reward for Coppola's hard work and commitment throughout the weekend, as he missed most of FP2 due to a technical issue and then was forced to start today's race from pit lane die to exceeding his engine allocation.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st
"It was a lucky race today for me. I was strong in the race, as we have been all weekend, but I didn't quite have the pace to close the gap to Lucas, as he was pushing so hard at the front. I was happy with second, the victory was for Lucas, but then he had the problem with the tyre and that allowed me to take the lead. Sometimes it is like this; I have been unlucky in the past and he was unlucky today. I'm sorry for him, but I'm happy for the championship, as I'm a lot closer to the top of the standings now."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - DQ
"I'm very sad about today, because together with my crew I worked so hard to win this race today. I didn't come here to Portimão for a podium finish, I came here to win and put my championship campaign back on track. And we were so close. I felt comfortable pushing in the race once I had the lead, but then the rear tyre failed and I was lucky not to crash. Then I saw the red flag and knew I had to get back to pit lane, but it was difficult with the rear tyre. I crashed twice on the way back because of the deflated rear tyre. At the end of the lap, I cut the last corner because I didn't want to drop fuel or oil on the track after the crashes, and it is this that got me disqualified. Thanks to my team and to Yamaha for their work this weekend, because we showed how strong we were. Now we need to come back even stronger in Magny-Cours."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Junior Team - 18th + 58.113
"Both Friday and Saturday were difficult for me, probably the most difficult days I've had at any race weekend. But this is when it's important to stay strong, to keep calm and to put in the work with the team to find the improvements needed. This is what we did this weekend and it paid off for us. Starting today from pit lane made things more difficult, but I felt strong, my lap times were consistent and I just kept pushing to recuperate positions. In the end I finished P18 and first European Supersport Cup rider and this is important for my confidence looking ahead to the next race in Magny-Cours. Thanks to my team and to Yamaha for their belief in me and their support."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team Manager
"Today could have been perfect for us; a one-two in the race and Alfonso finishing as the top European Supersport Cup rider, but it ended instead in drama. Lucas and Federico dominated in the race, as they have done all weekend, and for Lucas to be disqualified after the red flag and the incredible effort he made to return to pit lane within the time limit is incredibly frustrating. The rules are unclear, which is why we appealed the disqualification, but the stewards rejected this appeal and we have to accept that. This takes nothing away from Federico, who also rode a flawless race today to take his first ever back-to-back win. It was an important result, as it moves him up to third in the championship and just 20 points from the top of the standings. With three races remaining, he now has every chance of overhauling Sandro Cortese in the fight for the title. Congratulations also to Alfonso, who overcame a lot of difficulties this weekend and put in a fantastic performance in the race today. He had to start from pit lane, which is never ideal, but he put his head down and rode superbly to finish as the best of the European Supersport Cup riders, so well done to him. Thanks also to the team for their hard work this weekend and to Yamaha for their support. Together we showed just how strong our partnership is this weekend in Portimão."