Fight heats up along the Algarve coastline
Only 53 points split the top five in the FIM Supersport World Championship standings heading into Round Nine of the series, and following a dramatic Prosecco DOC German Round the title fight is tighter than ever. With debut wins and red flags, the battle was blown wide open in Germany, and there is now just one point separating Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) and Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) at the very top of the table. Returning to the Portuguese circuit of Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, where both Sofuolgu and Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) have secured victories around, it’s all to play for.
Leading the championship standings is Lucas Mahias, who was involved in the big crash last time out with team-mate Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team), but was able to rejoin the race and take third position on the podium. Heading into the final four rounds of the championship, the battle is intensifying at the top. Despite not racing with the WorldSBK paddock here, Frenchman Mahias secured victory around the Portimao circuit in 2016’s Endurance World Championship with Yamaha, conquering the 12 hour race. With only one victory to his name so far this season, the 28 year old has played the consistency card so far – Thailand and Misano are the only rounds he has finished off the podium. With the pressure mounting, all eyes will be on Mahias.
Bouncing back from adversity at the start of the season, reigning world champion Kenan Sofuoglu has put in a stunning performance since WorldSSP returned to Europe and is now firmly in that title chase. Lausitzring last time out was the first race he had not won since April, and Sofuoglu is always out on track to win. Revisiting Portimao, a circuit the Turkish rider has taken two victories around; he will be out to make up for the disappointment of Germany. However Sofuoglu hasn’t won around the 4.5km circuit since 2010 when he was riding for Honda, so it could be a big ask for him to be back up to pace.
Third in the championship standings, South African Sheridan Morais (Kallio Racing) secured his debut pole position and victory in Germany, following the boost of the 2017 YZF R6. Reigniting his championship charge, he now sits only 20 points behind Mahias and with an added boost of confidence from his first win, we could see Morais as a force to be reckoned with in the final four rounds. With a long standing experience around Portimao, the South African stood on the podium in the STK1000 class back in 2011 taking third position, but has also had some tough weekends in Portugal. With eight appearances around the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, Morais has secured five points scoring finishes and suffered two retirements, but despite this the experience will no doubt work in his favour next weekend.
Jules Cluzel suffered heartbreak last time out in Germany, as the Honda rider was hopeful of a podium finish, or even a fight for the victory but the early ending of the race came as a hindrance for the French rider. Yet to secure a victory this season, Cluzel is still only 33 points behind Mahias in the championship standings and with two wins to his name in WorldSSP around Portimao, he could be set for a strong weekend.
WorldSSP action from the stunning Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is set to keep you on the edge of your seats, and don’t miss a minute of the action with the WorldSBK VideoPass as the on-track racing kicks off on 15th September.