With the flag down after a nerve-wrenching first contest at the Circuito San Juan Villicum, it is now official: the new champion will be crowned at the final race of the season. Jules Cluzel (NRT) did everything he could to keep the battle alive for Qatar, taking his fifth win of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship and forcing Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) to settle for second, with 2017 champion Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team).
Cluzel grabbed the holeshot at the start, moving ahead of Mahias from fourth on the grid inside lap one. The leading pair soon became an all-French trio, as Corentin Perolari (GMT94 Yamaha) flew up the ranks from seventh on the grid to third. It came at the expense of Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha WorldSSP Team), however – Perolari jetted down the inside line at turn 2, the pair clashed, and Caricasulo found himself on the floor, any remaining title options evaporated in the blink of an eye.
The championship leader suffered a disappointing start, slipping down to fourth behind the leading trio. Far from fearing for his lead in the standings, Cortese chose to play the long game. The German slowly chiseled away at the gap with Perolari, eventually finding a comfortable slipstream down the back straight to go into third. Same strategy to move past Mahias: down the kilometre-plus straight at San Juan, taking good advantage of the slipstream with less than five laps to go.
Then came the much-awaited showdown. Record laps tumbled one after the other, both men left in the championship battle pushing harder than ever before – but Cortese finding that extra inch, cutting tenth after tenth off Cluzel’s lead. The German set his eyes on the final lap and that extraordinary back straight, barely a couple of tenths behind at that point. But he found the extra speed just too late: Cluzel defended his line masterfully, and with the Frenchman marginally stronger in the final sector all race he managed to meet the chequered flag ahead. Cortese’s lead is now down to six points: a repeat of this result in Qatar would grant him the world title – but the pressure is on.
Mahias crossed the line in third for a repeat of the Magny-Cours podium, with Thomas Gradinger (NRT) also repeating his fourth position from France. Perolari got a nose ahead of Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros WorldSSP Team) in a rip-roaring sprint to the line, defeating the Swiss rider for fifth.
Kyle Smith (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) was the first non-Yamaha rider in Argentina, leading a professional yet solitary race to seventh, followed over twelve seconds behind by the Kawasaki pair of Hikari Okubo and Héctor Barberà (Kawasaki Pucccett Racing) in eighth and ninth. Loris Cresson (Kallio Racing) returned to the top ten for the first time since Brno, while Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) was forced to retire after a mechanical issue.
The WorldSSP championship will go down to the wire! Catch the best moments of the Argentinian Round and gear up for the final round at Losail.
P1 – Jules Cluzel (NRT)
“I never saw Sandro, just on TV! It’s a shame – I did my job, I worked really hard for the race, I’m really proud because we didn’t make mistakes this weekend and I will try my best for the last one. I need some points though because it’s not enough – I think you all know how many points I lost this year and even because of Sandro, so maybe I will get revenge in Qatar, but I will try everything for sure.”
#ARGWorldSBK WorldSSP at Circuito San Juan Villicum – Race
1. Jules Cluzel (NRT)
2. Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) +0.240
3. Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) +3.702
WorldSSP Championship Standings after Round 11
1. Sandro Cortese (GER) Yamaha (189 points)
2. Jules Cluzel (FRA) Yamaha (183 points)
3. Randy Krummenacher (GER) Yamaha (150 points)
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of WorldSBK.com