Set up for a showdown: Mahias makes his mark in Tissot-Superpole

Saturday, 24 February 2018 03:43 GMT

Reigning Champion to begin his title defence from pole after frenetic WorldSSP qualifying

Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) took an impressive pole position for the first race of his title defence, fighting off teammate Federico Caricasulo and Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) for the honour and creating a front row of likely title contenders in 2018 – setting the scene for an incredible first showdown of the season on Sunday after a frenetic qualifying.

With wind at Phillip Island and grey skies overhead, the conditions were a challenge for the field, but fourth place was nevertheless an impressive debut in the class for 2012 Moto3™ World Champion Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing), who looked on course to take a first front row but was just pipped by an improving Caricasulo. Veteran Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing) will line up fifth for his home round as the Aussie also makes his fulltime return to the class, with last year’s podium finisher making a late improvement.

Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) made it three manufacturers in the top six on his Triumph, with Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evans Bros. WorldSSP Team) locking out seventh on his return to the class – previously a WorldSSP race winner at Phillip Island and doubtless pushing to repeat the feat.

Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) was the leading MV in eighth, the former FIM STK1000 Cup winner just ahead of Jules Cluzel (NRT). Cluzel, a perennial title contender in World Supersport and twice winner at Phillip Island, was up on his final sector before then losing time; the Frenchman forced to settle for P9.

Ayrton Badovini (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) took tenth and was the man who led the way comfortably through Tissot-Superpole 1, subsequently able to qualify one place ahead of direct Superpole 2 entrant Kyle Smith’s (Gemar Team Lorini) Honda.

Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) rounded out the top twelve on the grid after his last dash in Superpole 1 took him through, with Thomas Gradinger (NRT), Loris Cresson (Kallio Racing) and Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) locking out the fastest fifteen,