Press releases from the WorldSBK series organizers and teams after the final race of the year at Qatar:
Rea signs off fantastic season with Losail victory
Triple World Champion concludes 2017 campaign with another triumph, whilst Davies and Lowes join him on the podium
The final race of the 2017 season at the Acerbis Qatar Round on Saturday night brought another win for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) as he crossed the line just under two seconds ahead of Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati), with Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) in third. The victory gives Rea the record of most points in a single WorldSBK season (556 points), beating the previous record set by Colin Edwards in 2002, as the Northern Irishman ends the year with 16 victories and 24 podiums in 2017.
Davies made an incredible start as he shot from eighth on the grid to first within the first two corners, but Rea soon took control of the race on lap four and he did not look back from there.
With 14 laps to go Welshman Davies survived a big wobble - with perhaps the biggest save of the season - holding his nerve to continue on the pace and ultimately wrap up second place in the race and second place in the final championship standings.
Lowes got the better of his Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team colleague Michael van der Mark in the second half of the race and finally finished 1.658s ahead of the Dutchman.
Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) ended the season on a high in fifth place, whilst Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) was 5.688s behind the Spaniard in sixth place. Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) beat Sylvain Guintoli (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) to seventh by less than half a second, overcoming the Frenchman on the last lap.
Leon Camier completed his last race with MV Agusta Reparto Corse in ninth place just ahead of Roman Ramos (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven).
A huge crash for Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) at Turn 5 in the early running meant his last race with BMW ended in the gravel, the Spanish rider seen bravely walking away after the massive highside. On the third lap Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) crashed out of third place at turn 14, ending his hopes of challenging Davies for the championship runner-up spot.
Davide Giugliano (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) was declared unfit due to gastroenteritis and therefore the unwell Italian missed out on the last race of the year.
The WorldSBK riders will be back in action at the first round of the 2018 season at Phillip Island in Australia next February.
P1 - Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team)
"It's incredible, I don't really have emotions or words, just a lot of thanks to the people who have put me in this position. Most of all I want to thank my rivals, I've really enjoyed this season and I'm excited about the prospect of 2018, these seasons don't come along every day, so I just want to savor it for now."
P2 - Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati)
"I had the biggest save and the one I needed to do the most, I put my chest though the screen and as soon as I realized I could save it I managed to hold onto second spot. We sealed P2 which was our objective so I'm really happy, it was a tough race but I'm so happy with the results"
P3 - Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team)
"To be honest yesterday I was really disappointed, I knew I had the pace to challenge for the podium. I am happy with today, it wasn't easy and I was a long way back but I stayed calm; I did a good job and I'm so happy for the whole team."
#QatarWorldSBK at Qatar: Race 2
1. Jonathan Rea Kawasaki
2. Chaz Davies Ducati +1.961
3. Alex Lowes Yamaha +4.185
Record Points Haul For Rea With Sixteenth Win
Three time FIM Superbike World Champion Jonathan Rea (KRT) secured his 16th race win of the season this evening in Losail to set a record total of 556 points in one year. Tom Sykes (KRT) crashed out from a podium position early in the last race of the 2017 season and no scored.
An almost perfect season for Jonathan Rea culminated with a double win at the final round in Qatar on the Ninja ZX-10RR. In winning race two by 1.961 seconds he won two more races in a single season than he had managed in his previous best winning year of 2015.
For the final race of 2017 Rea started from ninth place, under the reverse grid Superpole regulations, but got up to the lead on lap four. From that point he started easing his way forward and maintaining a gap to the riders behind.
His strong finish saw him 153 ahead of overall second place finisher in the points, Chaz Davies, after 13 rounds. Rea was never off the podium in any race he finished this year.
Sykes lost his chance of finishing the season in second place after he fell on lap three, at turn 14. His machine was too badly damaged to continue. Tom finished his season a clear third overall in the rankings, with 373 points.
After the finale under the floodlights KRT will now head back to Europe to make preparations for the first of the winter tests, to be fully ready for the new technical challenges that the 2018 season will bring.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “The points tally is nice but the championship is the main thing. To win 16 races in a season, more than 50% of the races, is not normal. That’s the biggest thing I take away. This year, like I keep saying, I have no words. It has been feeling normal to be here on the podium and that is kind of scary. Right now is my time, so I really am enjoying the moment. Next year it could easily be somebody else so we really need to enjoy this and celebrate an incredible year. I know how difficult it is when things are not coming naturally, and it is an uphill struggle, so that is why I am so grateful to Kawasaki for this opportunity. It is a huge team effort. In a few weeks’ time we can start turning our attention to 2018.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “We started this final weekend so well but things just turned against us. In race two the bike felt much better. Initially I missed a bit of lap time but the bike was coming to me. I was just in a fast turn, clipped the white line and fell. People are running up and over kerbs here but I go and touch a white line and lose the front. It has been one of those things. The lap times were right there for the race today because we had made slight modifications from yesterday, so I cannot believe the way it finished. Jonathan has had an incredible season this year, he has done a fantastic job.”
Shigemi Tanaka of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Motorcycle and Engine Company, Marketing Department, stated: “We send our congratulations to Jonathan on behalf of KHI. It is a great achievement to score so many points, in a season which has been remarkable.”
Second place in both the race and the championship for Davies in the season finale in Qatar, Melandri 6th
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team took it back to the track at Losail (Qatar) for the final race of the 2017 WorldSBK Championship. Chaz Davies, second under the checkered flag as in Race 1, thus seized the goal to finish the championship in second position with 403 points to his tally. Marco Melandri, third in Race 1, struggled with grip issues to finish in sixth position.
Thanks to a blistering start from third row, Davies took the lead going into turn 1 and dictated the pace early on. After saving a near crash at turn 5, the Welshman managed the race from second position given that Sykes, his rival for runner-up position, was forced to retire. Melandri faced an uphill race due to lingering grip issues. The Italian, who in his first year on the Panigale R took 13 podiums (including one win) to finish fourth overall, fought valiantly to take sixth position.
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team would like to thank Ernesto Marinelli, Superbike Project Director, for the great work done together in the past three seasons, which resulted in 24 wins and 73 podiums overall, and wishes him the best for his future professional endeavors. The team will resume action on November 22-24 at Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) for the first winter tests ahead of the 2018 championship.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7) – 2nd
“We sealed second position in the championship, which was our goal going into this round, so I’m very happy. It’s been another tough race. I probably made the best start of my career, then got my head down while keeping an eye on Sykes’ position. I nearly crashed at turn 5, it felt like a rodeo but we hung on to it. Once I saw Sykes was out, I just tried to control the gap as second place was the best we could do today. Thanks to Ducati and Aruba.it for another exciting season, I’m looking forward to 2018.”
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #33) – 6th
“Despite the great work done with the team in these three days, we couldn’t find grip and in Race 2 we had to manage a few extra issues. I didn’t have much traction at maximum lean angle, and even on the straight the bike was moving a lot and I couldn’t open the throttle at 100 percent. I would have liked to finish the year with a different result but, looking at the bright side, we had some memorable races and we still have plenty of room for improvement. Now we’ll recharge to start winter testing, which will be very important, in our best shape. We want to be title contenders in 2018.”
Ernesto Marinelli, Superbike Project Director
“It’s been a very intense weekend. With Chaz we managed, thanks to his incredibile determination, to take second position in the championship, which we barely missed last year, even though we always race to win. It’s been a special round for me, as it was my last race with the team. I want to thank from the bottom of my heart Ducati, Aruba.it, and the guys in the team for all their efforts, and all the Ducati fans for the great moments we shared, which I’ll always remember.”
Lowes Back on the Podium as Pata Yamaha End Season in Sensational Fashion
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team bounced back in incredible style on Saturday under the floodlights in Qatar at the final round of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship, to confirm the progress made this year after their unfortunate double DNF in Race 1. Alex Lowes rode one of his best races of the season to charge from 10th on the grid to third, claiming his fourth podium of 2017 and ensuring he ended the year on a high. Not to be outdone, his teammate Michael van der Mark was also involved in the battle for the podium, just missing out as he crossed the line in fourth behind Lowes, to cap off a season that has seen the Pata Yamaha Team emerge as serious WorldSBK contenders.
Lowes was determined to bounce back in the final race of 2017 after Race 1's misfortune, but had his work cut out for him from tenth on the grid. When the lights went out, the 27-year-old British rider had a good start and set about finding his rhythm on his Pata Yamaha R1. Up into eighth by the end of the first lap, he continued to make superb progress and by the fourth lap, he had fought this way up to fourth, just behind his teammate van der Mark, who had made a sensational start and was closing the gap to the leaders.
As the race developed, Lowes' pace got quicker and quicker as he hunted down his teammate, making an excellent move entering Turn 1 on the 13th lap for third position. He then set his sights on Chaz Davis and Jonathan Rea ahead of him, matching the Kawasaki and Ducati for pace and showing just how much the Pata Yamaha R1 has improved in 2017. To highlight the progress made this season, Lowes' R1 recorded the highest top speed down the 1068m straight at the Losail International Circuit, a scorching 320.5kph. Pushing as hard as he could in the latter stages, the 2013 British Superbike Champion managed to stick with Davies, but could not quite get close enough to challenge for second position, eventually crossing the line in third just 4.185s behind the race winner Jonathan Rea, to finish the season in style. Lowes' fourth podium of the year sees him end 2017 fifth in the championship standings with 242 points and he now heads into the winter break full of confidence and looking forward to 2018.
His teammate van der Mark had also suffered from bad luck in Race 1, as he crashed out after a misjudgement saw him make contact with Tom Sykes bringing an end to his incredible run of 11 consecutive point-scoring finishes. Like his teammate Lowes, he showed what he is made of on Saturday in the hot and humid conditions in Qatar as he pulled off a breathtaking ride in Race 2. Lining up 12th on the grid, he made a blistering start that, incredibly, saw him up into fifth by the end of the first lap.
Showing scintillating race pace, he stayed within two seconds of Davies and Rea ahead of him until lap 9 but, unfortunately, in charging through the field in such aggressive fashion, he had used up his rear tyre. When his teammate Lowes made a move on him with 5 laps to go he did just did not have the grip levels to fight back but, undeterred, he continued to ride superbly and match the pace of the riders in front of him to bring his R1 home in fourth, to complete an excellent end to the season for the Pata Yamaha Team. In doing so, he recorded his 20th top ten finish of the year and secured sixth in the championship standings with 223 points but, more importantly, confirmed the pace he had shown in the last few rounds, establishing himself as a regular podium contender in the process and the 2014 Supersport World Champion is already looking forward to the start of the 2018 season.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team ended the season on a high and will now head to the official off-season test in Jerez on the 22-24th of November full of confidence and knowing that they are entering into the 2018 season in the best possible way. Check out the Race 2 results.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 3rd +4.185s
"Yesterday's race was really hard to take for me because, honestly, I felt really good all weekend and I just made a mistake in the last corner when trying to challenge Chaz Davies. Unfortunately, it was a little mistake that had a big consequence. It was hard mentally to come back today and push hard as I knew starting from tenth was going to be difficult. In the first six laps, I didn't feel as good on the bike as I hoped to. I was losing time to the riders in front but then I felt really strong and I was coming forward all the time and was able to match the leaders' pace. It is fantastic to get a podium after the crash yesterday; the team and Yamaha fully deserve it and I am happy to end the season like this and go into the winter break with a smile on my face and motivated next year to fight the top guys at every race!!"
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 4th +5.843s
"It's been a good last race of the season and I am happy with fourth place after coming from 12th on the grid. I had a really good start and a strong first lap, plus I was feeling so much better with the bike today than yesterday and my pace was quite good. I tried everything to follow Chaz Davies but could not close the gap and Alex was closing quickly behind me, then he passed me and I couldn't stay with him because I had used up my rear tyre. To finish the season with Alex on the podium and myself in fourth is really good because in the last couple of races we have improved so much with the R1. We have been more consistent and it gives us something to build on during the winter and for the new season with the new rules. I am looking forward to testing again and already I am thinking about Race 1 in Phillip Island next year!"
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"This evening's race was a great way to end the 2017 season for Alex, Michael and the whole Pata Yamaha Team! The performance from both riders from the fourth row of the grid, after last night's misfortunes, is another confirmation of the steps taken, especially in the second half of this season, and gives us real confidence going into the winter and the 2018 season. We are getting consistently closer to the championship's dominant riders, backed up by the fact that on lap 3 Alex was 3.3s behind the leader and on lap 15 had actually closed the gap to 3 seconds. The pace of the Yamaha R1 has improved significantly and there are more exciting developments coming in the test at the end of November. Whilst it is positive to look forward, I would also like to reflect on this season and thank everyone involved in the project for their dedication and hard work in helping Yamaha to become a serious contender for WorldSBK honours. In addition, a fond farewell to Alex's crew chief Ian Prestwood who is moving onto a new project, and a big "welcome" to former Yamaha WorldSBK rider Andrew Pitt who will work with Alex in 2018. Finally, huge congratulations to Lucas Mahias and the GRT Yamaha Team on winning the WorldSSP Championship after an incredible end to the season."
Milwaukee Aprilia score points in difficult Race Two at Losail
Losail International Circuit 04 / 11 / 2017
Milwaukee Aprilia experienced a difficult Race 2 at the 2017 WorldSBK finale in Qatar, Eugene Laverty scoring the team 9 points in P7.
Laverty and teammate Lorenzo Savadori started the race P1 and P2 after strong rides to P4 ad P5. Eugene made a rapid getaway in the lead, defending against the fast-starting Davies and Sykes. Lorenzo had a slow start, dropping to P18 after running wide at Turn 1. Lorenzo encountered electronic problems on Lap 2 that had surfaced in the warm-up session, and was forced to stop his bike on the pit straight and retire.
Eugene was struggling with grip from his rear tyre early on, causing his pace to drop and lose places. He fought hard within the top five, but dropped to P6 on Lap 5. As his rear grip continued to cause him problems, he was passed by Fores and was caught by Guintoli. Determined to defend his position Eugene fought hard with him, as they passed and re-passed each other all the way to the line. Able to use the imperious speed of his Aprilia, Eugene defended well against Guintoli and eventually finished P7 with 9 points to secure tenth in the championship.
With a year of valuable experience to use in their first year as Milwaukee Aprilia, the joint forces of SMR and Aprilia Racing will head into winter testing with a good base for the Aprilia RSV4-RF as they prepare to fight for the 2018 Superbike World Championship.
Shaun Muir - Team Principal
"We started this year with high expectations as a team, but we soon realised we were further back than we initially thought. In Australia we were in a strong position naturally, but we perhaps didn't realise that immediately. As a result we have gone full circle after full circle in trying to progress and innovate, but we have learnt and grown as a team and have many reasons to be positive.
We've finished this weekend with a setting that gives us a good base for the RSV4-RF to use in winter testing, a setting that we should have had at the start of 2017. We had our best finish of the year yesterday with P4 and P5, and in general the last four races have found us in a really good position. They have helped us to consolidate what we have learnt, and we go into next season with a wealth of experience and knowledge to utilise. SMR is a smarter team now and we are constantly building and increasing our capabilities. Another big factor from this year is that Aprilia Racing now have a good direction to follow, and together we are determined to succeed.
Both of our riders are also more confident with the machinery. They have struggled at times this year and have not always had the best package to compete with, but their feedback has helped shape our direction for the Aprilia and in testing we aim to further develop the bike and the riders' comfort with it. 2017 has been difficult for us, but we hope to start 2018 in a stronger position and to be able to challenge for the podium regularly."
Eugene Laverty #50 - Aprilia RSV4-RF
Race: P7, 9 points
"I felt such a potential for the bike heading into Race Two, and it was a disappointing result really. We made the same forward steps overnight that we’ve been making all weekend, but there was something really strange going on with the rear tyre. I did what I could with the electronic to help me grip, but I haven’t had a Pirelli act like that before where it was jumping, and that needs investigating.
It was a decent battle with Guintoli for seventh and I was able to utilise the bike’s power to get past, but it wasn’t where we should have been. The bike was working well in areas that we’ve struggled previously such as fast corners, but I didn’t have a rear tyre to make use of the bike that I had.
It’s been a positive year for us overall. We started the year further back than we expected which was hard to deal with, but we’ve all dug deep and gradually made good progress. The second half of the year has been really positive and we’ve found a good direction to go in. We’ve focussed less on numbers and more on rider and bike feedback, and that has helped us make huge progress. I’m looking forward to the 2018 season; we will work very hard over the winter and from Phillip Island our target will be the podium. Everyone is very dedicated and determined in this team and I’m confident we will have a good year."
Lorenzo Savadori #32 - Aprilia RSV4-RF
“I'm not sure exactly what was wrong with the bike in the race. We had an electronic issue in the warm up session and there was a problem on my sighting lap to the grid. It was an unlucky result for us, because the bike felt good.
I made a slow start and I went wide at the first corner where I lost a lot of positions. I was starting to make up positions quickly and my pace was good, but the race was over on the second lap when it stopped on the straight.
It was not a simple year for us, but we have learnt a lot. The first half of the year we didn't make much progress and for sure we could have been better. The second half of the year after testing was like a new season for us, and was much better. The race yesterday was good for us, and I hope we can keep up good performances next year. We need to work a lot over the winter to reduce the gap to the guys at the front, but I am positive because the team has been great this year and we have learnt so much."
Solid performance by Jake Gagne in race two to wrap up the season
Losail International Circuit, Qatar
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team wraps up the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship with a solid performance by Jake Gagne, who was twelfth again at the end of the 17-lap, final encounter of the season at the Losail International Circuit. Gagne’s team mate Davide Giugliano was declared unfit to race following an outbreak of gastroenteritis.
Gagne got a good launch from 17th place on the grid and – after a few laps – he got up to speed on board his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 machine and made his way into the top-15. In the first half of the race, the 24-year-old American lapped consistently in the 1’59secs – a pace which helped him consolidate twelfth position as the laps went by. Gagne then rode a lonely second part of the final encounter to equal yesterday’s race one result, albeit with a smaller gap to the top.
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team will begin preparations for the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship with a private test on November 22-24 at ‘Circuito de Jerez’ in Spain.
Jake Gagne 45
I was happy with the progress made today in warm up because we improved the feeling with the front-end of the bike and the rear grip got better, too. My start to the race was pretty good, but unfortunately I found myself on the outside at turn two and that cost me a couple of places. Because of that, I ended up losing a couple of seconds from the group ahead. It was kind of a bummer, because I think we could have stayed with them and battled for a better finish. But nevertheless I’m happy because we made a lot of progress throughout the weekend and I learned a lot, so thanks to the team and Honda for inviting me back for one more race this year.
- Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Davide Giugliano 34
It’s a real shame that I was unable to take part into this final race of the season, but unfortunately the gastroenteritis has been debilitating me for a few days now, and today I was in no condition to compete. I want to thank Honda and the team for this great opportunity to get back to the World Superbike paddock this year, it has been a pleasure to work with such a great squad. The boys have done an incredible job and Ronald has put together a great group of people. It has been a tough year for all of them no doubt, but I’m sure things will turn around for the better soon and I think we have done a good job with the bike in these few rounds together, which will hopefully set things into a good direction for the future.
- Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Today it became evident as we got closer to the race that Davide’s physical condition was getting worse and worse, so it was a wise decision by the Medical Director to declare him unfit to compete. We want to thank him for stepping in this year as well as for his contribution and feedback to the development of the Fireblade. Jake managed to equal his best WorldSBK result today to wrap up what was a very positive round for him: he improved session after session and he could have aimed for a top-10 finish had he not lost touch with the group ahead in the early stages. Let’s not forget this was only his third-ever World Superbike round and the first under floodlights - on a track he had never ridden before. So hats off to him for today’s performance and a thank you for racing with us. All in all, it has been a very difficult season from many angles but we will come back stronger and hopefully this year will serve us well for a better 2018.
- Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Tough season finale for Althea BMW at Losail
Doha (Qatar), Saturday 4 November 2017
The 2017 Superbike world championship concluded today at the Losail International Circuit and, for the Althea BMW Racing team, it proved to be a tough final outing. De Rosa crossed the line in eleventh position but a highside for Jordi Torres unfortunately ruled him out of the race very early on.
Superbike - Race 2 – fourth on the grid having finished seventh in yesterday’s race, Torres was lying eighth through the first corners. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the Spaniard’s day though, as a big highside at turn 5 on just the second lap saw him end his race in the gravel. Fortunately Jordi was not seriously injured, but this wasn’t how he had hoped to conclude his adventure with the Althea BMW team.
>From thirteenth, De Rosa got away well to position twelfth. Earning several places through the first laps, the Italian was up into ninth by lap three. Following Guintoli, Raffaele maintained good pace, lapping in tenth position through the central phase of the race. Pushing all the way to the line, the Althea BMW rider crossed the line in eleventh place.
As the 2017 championship draws to a close, Torres closes in ninth place with 158 points, De Rosa fifteenth with 53 points. In the manufacturer’s standings, BMW finishes fifth with 187 points, while the Althea BMW Racing team positions fifth in the team standings having accumulated a total of 230 points during the 2017 season.
“We started out well and I was confident we could make a good race. Unfortunately though, on lap two, as soon as I touched the gas through turn 5 the bike threw me off. Luckily I haven’t broken anything though I may have some muscle injury. I didn’t want to end the season like this of course, we hoped to do more… Of course I want to thank Genesio, the team and BMW for these last two years. We’ve had some great moments, I’ve learned a great deal and I'm very proud of the fact that as a team we never gave up, always giving it our all. So huge thanks to everyone.”
“After yesterday’s crash, it was important to cross the line today. After Jordi fell, I too risked a highside but was able to continue, it actually happened a couple of times, I’m not sure why. I got into a rhythm after that though and was doing OK until about lap eleven when I started to have problems managing the rear, particularly in braking. I was at least able to finish the race though… Huge thanks to Genesio and the entire team, as they’ve always done everything in their power to help me. Thanks also to my family and everyone who’s supported me this season. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to do more…”
Mahias seals WorldSSP title with superb Qatar win
Under the floodlights at Losail Frenchman secures the title with victory, as Cluzel and Sofuoglu join him on the podium
At the season-concluding Acerbis Qatar Round on Saturday evening an enthralling WorldSSP race saw the title fight go right down to the last lap, as Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) clinched the crown with a narrow (0.023s) victory over his compatriot Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda). Meanwhile, comeback hero Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) performed brilliantly to finish in third place, though it was just not enough for him to keep the title he has won on five previous occasions.
Mahias and Sofuoglu embraced during the post-race celebrations after a breathtaking contest at the Losail International Circuit.
French rider Mahias held his nerve in the final stages to cross the line just in front of his countryman Cluzel to seal the title with a victory. Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) finished a close fourth, being beaten across the line by the gritty Sofuoglu.
Mahias, Cluzel and Caricasulo had contested the podium spots for most of the race, though Mahias led the way for the majority of the 15 lap battle. Sofuoglu was caught up further back in the field, fighting with the likes of Sheridan Morais (Kallio Racing), Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing), Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini) and PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) as he made his way through the pack to fourth and then chased Caricasulo down in the final stages.
It was incredible that Sofuoglu had even made it onto the starting grid given that he suffered a triple hip fracture in France just over one month ago, the Turkish rider bravely making a comeback far earlier than expected, as he did his best to defend his title. It was an outside shot as he went into the race 20 points behind Mahias, but it was a hugely valiant effort by the five-time World Champion. Sofuoglu remarkably even set a new race fastest lap around the Losail track on lap 12.
Anthony West (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) finished in fifth place, followed by Tuuli, Morais, Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing), Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) and Smith in the top ten.
There was drama on the first lap of the final WorldSSP race of 2017 as Christoffer Bergman (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI) went down at turn 6. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was another victim of turn 6 with 8 laps to go, whilst that lap also brought an end to the race for American rider Jacobsen who had been well placed for a top ten finish.
P1 - Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team):
"It is incredible, I push a lot in the race to win the race. In the beginning ti was not my plan, it was to win the title but the feeling in the bike is very good and I think today is my day. The bike felt fantastic and I pushed and fought with Jules. The feeling I have now is amazing, 10 years ago I was dreaming of this and now I am world champion. I want to thank Yamaha, my team and my family, because this title was not only won by me, it was a team effort."
#QatarWorldSBK: WorldSSP Race
1. Lucas Mahias (FRA) Yamaha
2. Jules Cluzel (FRA) Kawasaki +0.023
3. Kenan Sofuoglu (TUR) Kawasaki +3.788
Mahias secures WorldSSP crown in Qatar
French rider defies all odds to be crowned WorldSSP champion
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) crossed the line at Losail International Circuit as 2017 FIM Supersport World Champion, achieving his dream following a tough season full of ups and downs. Bouncing back from injury to put in a stunning performance, Mahias has wrapped up the title at Qatar in an emotional display.
Joining the official Yamaha squad for 2017, the French rider has not only had a new series to contend with but also a new bike and team. Mahias spent 2016 competing in various different championships, including European Superstock 1000. Entering three races in the series, the 28 year old secured a second position at Jerez, on top of two victories around Misano and his home circuit of Magny-Cours on a Yamaha YZF-R1. He also made his debut in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship with Pedercini Racing, taking two top 13 finishes around TT Circuit Assen.
Making his mark in the WorldSBK paddock last season, he was also able to take the FIM EWC Rider’s championship following a tough battle throughout the year in the endurance series. But Mahias has never been a stranger to racing across multiple classes in the past; in 2011 he raced in the CEV championship. In 2012 he was able to show off his talents on the world stage, before taking on the German IDM Supersport Class in 2013.
Firmly signed to the GRT squad this season, Mahias soon found his feet with the team as he was locked in a scintillating battle for the lead in the opening round at Phillip Island, however he suffered misfortune in Thailand with a DNF. Rapidly making his intentions well known as the championship took to MotorLand Aragon, he secured his debut victory in the series by just 0.014s ahead of Sheridan Morais (Kallio Racing). A string of three second positions swiftly followed, and the French rider was now leading the title by 30 points ahead of the returning Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).
A crash around Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli in July left the French rider with no points and a sour taste heading into the summer break, and his championship lead diminished to just five points. Four rounds of the season remained, and Mahias was able to make a return to the podium in Lausitzring and Portimao, before a crash at his home round of Magny-Cours put a spanner in the works.
Crashing out in a wet FP3 in front of his home fans, it looked as if he had a bad injury to his right wrist and his championship chances were in doubt. However with main title rival Sofuoglu on a plane back to Turkey with an injury to his hip, Mahias put in a heroic ride on Sunday. Fighting through the field to make it up into fourth position, the passion and desire to take the title shone through for the Frenchman, with a tough outing in the final European Round of Jerez, the title fight went down to the wire. Sealing the deal in the final round at Losail International Circuit with a stunningly narrow victory, which enough to crown him a world champion for the first time in his career.
Send your congratulations to Mahias using #MAH1AS.
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team):
"It is incredible, I push a lot in the race to win the race. In the beginning ti was not my plan, it was to win the title but the feeling in the bike is very good and I think today is my day. The bike felt fantastic and I pushed and fought with Jules. The feeling I have now is amazing, 10 years ago I started to race and now I am world champion. I want to thank Yamaha, my team and my family, because this title was not only won by me, it was a team effort."
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!"
Final Push Sees Kenan Third And West Fifth
Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider Kenan Sofuoglu rode like the five times WorldSSP champion he is to overcome the effects of his recent pelvic injuries and finish third in the final race of the 2017 WorldSSP season. Anthony West (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) came from 12th on lap one to take a strong fifth place at the flag.
After qualifying fourth in SP2 on Friday Kenan rode with a degree of restraint in the first few laps at the Losail International circuit, especially with so many other riders making aggressive early moves, but he worked his way from ninth on lap one to an eventual third, increasing his pace as the race went on.
He set a new lap record twice, the final one on lap 12 of 15, to close the gap down to Federico Caricasulo. He passed the Italian rider more than once but his final manoeuvre gave him third place right at the flag. It was a remarkable podium result for a rider who was so badly injured only a few weeks earlier.
Kenan was also fighting to keep his last chance of retaining the championship crown, but after Lucas Mahias won the race the French rider was crowned champion for the first time. Kenan was second overall, by 29 points.
When he has been allowed to start or finish a race in 2017 Sofuoglu has secured a podium finish. He has scored five wins this year, extending his career total to 43.
In only his second race for the Kawasaki Puccetti Racing WorldSSP team in 2017, West set a lap record on his push through to the front, only for Sofuoglu to beat it during his own charge forward.
West ended his season in eighth place, having ridden some races on his own privateer machine earlier in the 2017 season.
Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “At the beginning of the race it was very difficult with everyone riding around me. When they had all calmed down and started to ride normally, I started to pass them and put in very good lap times. I almost got to the leaders’ group but Caricasulo was riding very aggressively. We still got to the podium at the end, set the lap record and were second in the world championship. I am very happy, honestly, because we did not lose the championship today, we lost the championship in the races we did not start. All the races we rode to the finish we took a podium. I just need to be happy and say thank you to all the doctors who supported me this weekend.”
Anthony West, stated: “My start was good but being on the inside you could either be lucky if everybody goes wide, or unlucky if they don’t, and nobody did. I got stuck a little bit and a few guys got past me. Then a few guys crashed in front of me, so I was baulked a little bit. I felt strong during the race and was able to catch people on the track. I wish the result was a little bit better but I am happy as the last two years have been hard ones. Now I have started to enjoy the racing again and to be fighting for something.”
Michael Canducci (3570 Puccetti Racing FMI Kawasaki) did not finish the race and ended his season in 14th place overall.
Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) was ninth today, and completed the 2017 season 17th overall. Kazuki Watanabe (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) retired at Losail and finished his year 20th.
Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) was a no-scorer in Qatar but ended up 28th, one place ahead of Aussie rider Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing Kawasaki) who was 29th in his second WorldSSP season. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) placed 35th in the final rankings.