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 it 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
WorldSSP Championship Standings Acerbis Qatar Round
1. Lucas Mahias (FRA) Yamaha (190 points)
2. Kenan Sofuoglu (TUR) Kawasaki (161 points)
3. Jules Cluzel (FRA) Honda (155 points)
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of Dorna WSBK Organization Srl