Mahias takes win in extraordinary Losail race; Cortese becomes WorldSSP Champion –
Title contender Cluzel crashes in the final lap trying to overtake Cortese
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) has won the final race of the FIM Supersport World Championship season in extraordinary circumstances, overtaking title contenders Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) and Jules Cluzel (NRT) three laps from the chequered flag. The Kallio Racing rider finished second and becomes the 2018 World Supersport Champion, after his main rival crashed out dramatically in the final lap.
Tension was at an all-time high on Saturday evening, with the race itself up in the air until the reconnaissance lap. Puddles scattered around the Losail International Circuit after the afternoon’s storms kept the riders on their toes on what was an otherwise dry track, but the consensus was for the final race to go ahead.
The lights went out and a wild opening lap began. Polesitter Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) went horribly wide at turn 1, falling to fourth, while Corentin Perolari (GMT94 Yamaha) slotted himself between the two title contenders, Cluzel taking the lead. Cortese moved past the GM94 rider on the main straight and bridged the gap with Cluzel up to the final sector, sticking an unbelievable move through 12.
But Cluzel returned the favour through the main straight, and Perolari found his way past Cortese again. The German was determined not to fall at the final hurdle: he moved past the 20-year-old Frenchman on the main straight in lap 4 and set out to put pressure on the NRT rider; Cluzel went wide at turn 13, Cortese moved swiftly back into the lead.
A ceasefire seemed to be agreed for the next few laps, but with Mahias edging closer to the pair Cluzel came back all guns blazing in lap 9, sticking in a pass at turn 4. The slipstream through the start of lap 10 moved Cortese momentarily ahead but his French rival was back in front through 2.
Then came the moment that, with hindsight, would decide the championship. Smelling blood and with both riders bickering at every corner, Mahias seized his opportunity and passed both riders at turn 6 and into the race lead. Cluzel left Cortese back in third, but beating his rival was no longer enough: he needed the race win to overcome the five-point gap separating them.
Knowing that he now held the advantage, even in a losing situation, the German kept his cool and remained with Cluzel, fighting his way through while trying to force mistakes out of his desperate rival. And the mistake did come: Cluzel tried to put in a last lap pass over Cortese through turn 7, with the championship all but slipping through his fingers; he lost the front end, crashing out and officially handing the title to Cortese, whose incredible consistency was finally the winning factor over Cluzel’s five race wins.
Mahias crossed the line in first, taking his third win of the season and the runner-up spot in the standings. Cortese’s second place is enough to clinch the championship by 23 points in his rookie season.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) finished third after a fantastic climb through from seventh on the grid, with Thomas Gradinger (NRT) in fourth position. Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) was fifth, with Perolari finally down in sixth. Héctor Barberà finished his season on a high with seventh position, ahead of Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) in eighth, Hans Soomer (Racedays) in ninth, and Peter Sebestyen closing the top ten.
That’s a wrap on the 2018 World Supersport season! It’s been a long ride, full of twists and turns at every stop along the way, and we can’t wait to get going again.
Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing):
“I am so speechless! I am so happy and I can enjoy this moment. I have to say thank you to my team, they picked me up after such a difficult winter, I had no ride and they believed in me. I think we did the maximum we could this year, we gave everything all year, and the people in my team are great. And a final thank you to my family, they helped me in hard times and I cant wait to get back home!”
WSBK Race 2 – Cancelled
Following a severe rain and sand storm on Saturday morning in Qatar, it has been announced that WorldSBK race two has been cancelled at Losail International Circuit. With the storm hitting the Losail track in the morning, conditions deteriorated and therefore a difficult decision was taken to cancel the final race of the day.
Unfortunately, this signals an early end to the 2018 season, and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) will end the season with 545 points and 17 victories. Whilst Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) takes second position in the championship, 23 points ahead of Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team).
Race direction statement: “Following the World Supersport race, the safety commission (FIM, Dorna WSBK Organization and SBK® riders) met. Due to an increase of standing water, as well taking into account the difference between power and tyres of WorldSBK and WorldSSP bikes, this led us to decide racing would not be safe in these conditions.”
Race 1 –
Rea dominates for the 11th race in a row
Seventeen down, one to go. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has won the first race of the Pirelli Qatar Round and matched Doug Polen’s record for the most race victories in a single season, with 17 additional laps still to go tomorrow at the Losail International Circuit. He also moves to within just 12 points of the highest points tally in one WorldSBK season. The 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike WorldChampion was absolutely untouchable out on the Qatari circuit, getting the holeshot at the lights and never relinquishing the race lead. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) completed a KRT one-two, with Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) getting the better of Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) for third position after a race-long battle.
A dream start for the Northern Irishman pushed him into first place before even arriving to turn 1, while Laverty and Lowes jostled behind to see who could follow the Kawasaki bikes. The Aprilia’s incredible top speed on the kilometre-long straight was Laverty’s best weapon all throughout the race, using the slipstream to move into third after lap one.
With Rea managing a comfortable two-second gap over his teammate and both riders a step above the rest in terms of consistency, all eyes were set on the Yamaha and Aprilia battle behind. Lowes moved ahead in lap 6 but was again beaten on the front straight three laps later. It all came down to an epic last lap battle where they rubbed shoulders all the way through, including a brave final pass from the Englishman at turn 12. Laverty tried to return the favour on the final turn but nearly lost the front end, handing Lowes the final podium position. There is a silver lining for the Aprilia rider however: he starts from P1 on tomorrow’s grid.
Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) followed the front quartet with a confident race all the way to the final lap, but late issues pushed him down to thirteenth to the benefit of Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). The Italian takes fifth position and will start his last race for the Borgo Panigale squad from the front row of the grid.
The last two laps at Losail saw one of the wildest battles of the season, as Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) raced side-by-side for that final front row spot. The Frenchman was triumphant in this war, taking sixth position with the Yamaha in seventh, while Davies nearly lost eighth position on the final straight to Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), ninth.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) closed the top ten, with Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) in a disappointing eleventh after starting from the second row.
The final race of the 2018 WorldSBK season is upon us! Tune in tomorrow at 19:00 local time (16:00 GMT) to find out who can claim the last win of the season,
P1 – Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“It was a really fun race especially in the beginning as I was able to feel really good with the ZX-10RR. In the last five laps I started running into some problems with my front tyre and it was a case of nursing it home, so there’s definitely work to do for tomorrow to finish in the same position. I’m so happy to have 17 wins in a season and so fortunate to be in this situation with the Kawasaki Racing Team, and the bond I have with the team and the bike – it’s incredible. Thanks to everybody who has come out to watch tonight, it’s probably the biggest crowd we’ve had here, so thank you.”
P2 – Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“Yeah, it’s not bad but it would’ve been better for a win! I enjoyed the race but got caught up at the beginning, but overall enjoyed it from start to finish and had a big smile. I came under some pressure from behind and I was just trying to maintain the gap to Jonathan, and then towards the end of the race he was just managing the front tyre a little bit better than me, and was able to get it in and out of the corner a little bit more effectively, whereas I was relying more on corner speed so we need to look at that for tomorrow. But, second position is not too bad and we know how fast Jonathan is here and it would be nice to try and go one better tomorrow. I think it’ll be a different race from the third row, but we’ll give it the berries and try to make the last one count; it’s so nice to be here under the floodlights, I really enjoy this event so we’ll try again then.”
P3 – .Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team)
“To be honest I enjoyed the whole race, I was pushing quite hard and I think Eugene had some problems with the front tyre, which gave me a small door to try and get through on the last lap. I really enjoyed battling with him and fair play to him, hopefully tomorrow we can try to improve the rear grip a bit and get onto the podium. It’s great to be back here after a difficult middle part of the year.”