After the first three practice sessions on the opening day of the final round of the WorldSBK Championship at Losail in Qatar Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was the fastest rider, with a 1’57.323 lap that put him 0.183 seconds ahead of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team).
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) started his final weekend with the KRT squad in third place, just 0.191 seconds from Laverty.
Fastest man in FP2, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK), was fourth overall, with the second Aprilia of Lorenzo Savadori fifth.
Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) was a confidence-boosting sixth, ahead of the leading works Ducati of Marco Melandri(Aruba.it Racing – Ducati).
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK) – like Rea an early faller at Losail in FP1 – recovered to finish eighth. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was ninth and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) tenth. Those top ten riders pushed their way into Superpole 2 directly, with some big names like Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team Ducati) 12th and Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) 14th. Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) was 13th.
Mahias Vindicated-ish And Goes Fastest In Losail
The top competitors in the WorldSSP Championship monopolised the top four places after the second free practice session under the floodlights at the series finale in Qatar.
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha) was fastest after FP2, with current points leader Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing Yamaha) second, Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Yamaha) third (after a clever slipstreaming game right at the end) and Jules Cluzel (NRT Yamaha) fourth.
The latter rider is now more than ready to fight for the title on the final day.
The leading lights rode in the second evening session shortly after news broke that 2017 champion Mahias had had his Portimao race win re-instated, after an appeal to CAS (Court Of Arbitration for Sport). He had been disqualified initially in Portimao for not making it back to the pits in regulation time after a late crash, and then using the wrong pitlane entry when he got back to pitlane. He had been leading when the red flag came out and thus he was re-instated as the race winner under the CAS ruling – but had to pay a fine instead.
His transgression of the rules was not in question but the penalty of disqualification appears to have been judged to be too severe, and was reduced to an unspecified financial penalty.
After a re-adjustment and redistribution of the Portimao points, the six-point advantage Cortese had in the championship coming into Qatar is now just five. A significant five. Cluzel, second in the points, could now win the title merely by winning the Losail race, even if Cortese finishes second. If they end the race on Saturday tied on points, which would happen under that scenario, Cluzel would win the championship by having scored more race wins than Cortese.
Behind the leading four in today’s sessions Corentin Perolari (Yamaha GMT94) was fifth, and the top non-Yamaha rider proved to beRaffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) in sixth place.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) was a surprising seventh, and unusually the top Kawasaki belonged to relative newcomer to the class – ex-MotoGP regular – Hector Barbera (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in eighth place.
Kyle Smith (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) placed ninth and Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing Yamaha) was tenth.