Opening day at Acerbis Qatar Round sees Mahias, Cluzel and Stapleford as the Thursday top three, with Sofuoglu returning to action
At the Losail International Circuit on Thursday the WorldSSP riders were in action as they commenced their final race weekend of the season, with championship leader Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team)
the top man after FP2. The Frenchman was joined in the top three on the practice timesheets by compatriot Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and Briton Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing).
Mahias shot to the top of the timing screens at the end of the second practice of the evening in Qatar, with a 2’01.316 putting him a significant 0.412s margin ahead of Cluzel, whilst Stapleford was 0.006s further adrift.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team), Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini) and Anthony West (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) all featured in the top six, whilst the big news of the day was the return to action of Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).
After suffering fractures to his pelvis at the French round of the championship in September it looked like Sofuoglu could be out for the rest of the season but he has remarkably made it back in time to attempt to prevent standings leader Mahias from wrestling the title from him. Sofuoglu needs to win Saturday’s race and for his rival Mahias to score only five or less points, or the defending World Champion needs to finish second and Mahias not to score at all, to lift what would be his sixth WorldSSP World title.
In FP1 Sofuoglu was back on track after that triple hip fracture he sustained in France just over one month ago, the Turkish rider putting in 17 laps on his Kawasaki ZX-6R and ending up seventh on the timesheet in the opening practice of the weekend despite a brief technical problem mid-session. He was given a medical check-up at the circuit in between FP1 and FP2 – then going on to finish seventh in the second session too. He will undergo another precautionary revision on Friday before FP3.
Thursday’s combined timesheets after FP2 saw Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI), Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) and Christian Gamarino (BARDAHL EVAN BROS. Honda Racing) complete the top ten. Earlier in the evening Smith led the way in FP1 with a 2’02.743 lap, ahead of Mahias and Caricasulo.
There were crashes without serious consequence in FP2 for Christoffer Bergman (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda), Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing).