WorldSBK commentator Steve English clears up any confusion over the Frenchman’s heartbreak
Motorcycle racing at the highest level is a dramatic sport unlike any other. It's hand to hand combat between man and machine to wring every last ounce of performance from each. There are few events as intense as a race. Every outing for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is filled with drama and intrigue, but the conclusion of the FIM Supersport World Championship race at Portimao is one that will be etched into the history of the sport.
Culminating with a red flag just seconds after race leader Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) had started the final lap of 18, this is where the drama began. The Frenchman quickly found himself in trouble; he had a problem with his rear tyre and ended up cruising down the start/finish straight - thinking his race was run. 30 minutes of hard work was undone in an instant, and 25 points were about to wiped away from him.
He was disconsolate as he pulled into the marshal posts at Turn 1. But unbeknown to the reigning world champion, at another marshal post a crash was about to force the red flags to fly. Within an instant Mahias knew that he needed to get back to the pits, because there were still points to be won.
There are various rules at play: all under Article 1.26 of the FIM Superbike World Championship Regulations when a red flag is declared by race control. The key rule being that you need to get back to the pitlane within five minutes of the flags being waved, in order to be declared a finisher, with the results being set by the previous lap completed by the field.
As it stood at that time, Mahias was out in front. The 29 year old thought that if he could get back to the pits he would be declared the winner. Apart from the five minute rule there are various other rules to consider. One key rule being that to be declared a finisher, you needed to be an active participant at the time of the red flag (Article 1.26.1). Mahias was not officially declared a retirement at the time of the flag, on the official results he had been cited for having a technical problem, and therefore when he attempted to get back to the pits he was an active participant.
Mahias now had five minutes to return in order to take the win, and the Frenchman did absolutely everything in his power to ride back to pit lane. He crashed twice on what was an intense final lap, riding his YZF-R6 under difficult conditions in order to get it back to pit lane. It was a heroic effort from the Frenchman and one that won't be forgotten in a hurry, but following the second crash he elected to cut the final corner of the lap because he “didn't want to drop fuel or oil on the track after the crashes.”
Unfortunately for Mahias and the GRT Yamaha team, there is a regulation (Article 1.21.3) that states “Riders should use only the track and the pit-lane” unless they “accidentally leave the track then he may re-join it at the place indicated by the officials or at a place which does not provide an advantage to him.” In racing conditions, Race Direction are able to enforce a penalty of dropping a position or “further penalties.”
With a red flag in effect, Race Direction elected to declare the results with Lucas Mahias not classified, which meant Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) was declared the race winner. The dramas of a race turned into ecstasy and heartbreak for the WorldSSP team – seeing one rider win and the other have his dreams of victory crushed.
Re-live the drama from a dramatic and intense WorldSSP race from Portugal, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass.