Mahias arrived in Qatar knowing that finishing tenth or better in Saturday's race will guarantee him the 2017 WorldSSP Championship. After a superb ride to fourth at the last round in Jerez, despite suffering with an issue with his front tyre, the 28-year-old French rider had been feeling nervous in the build-up to the weekend but as soon as he hit the track the Losail International Circuit on Thursday afternoon he immediately settled into doing what he does best. With the sun setting during FP1, he set a 2:02.815 to finish in second as he got used to the dusty track conditions that can affect the early sessions in Qatar, due to sand blowing in from the desert. The floodlights were on for FP2 and with the track conditions having improved, he got his head down and went for it, improving his time from FP1 by almost 1.5s as he put in a stunning 2:01.316 lap at the end of the session on his Yamaha R6 to finish on top of the overall timesheets, with a margin of over four-tenths of a second over the nearest rider. Mahias will now aim to improve even more on Friday to secure the best possible start position for the championship-deciding race on Saturday.
Caricasulo came to Qatar bubbling with confidence after a brilliant weekend in Jerez at the last round that saw him secure pole position, a new lap record, and the race victory. The 21-year-old Italian ended FP1 in third, just 0.052s behind his teammate Mahias with a 2:02.867. In FP2 he decided to focus on race pace, a tactic that served him well in Jerez and, despite the sweltering heat and suffering from a rear tyre issue, managed to put in some long runs to collect vital data for Saturday's race. On his final run of the session, he set a 2:01.734, matching exactly the time of the rider in third and only six-thousandths of a second behind the man in second. Caricasulo now heads into Friday's qualifying full of confidence, not only because of his ability to set a quick flying lap but also due to his excellent race pace.
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team are back in action on Friday in Qatar at 17:00 local time for Free Practice 3, with SP2 scheduled to start at 19:55 pm at the Losail International Circuit.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 2:01.316
"I feel really good after today! I have been feeling quite stressed since Jerez, as this is the first time I have been in this position in the championship. I have probably been overthinking things, so the best solution for me was just to go out and push a lot. Obviously, during the race, I will ride with my head but I really enjoyed today's practice as I could just go out and ride without any pressure. Finishing in P1, with the pace we have shown, is a good start to the weekend!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 4th - 2:01.734 +0.418s
"Today was pretty good! We worked a lot on race pace and I am confident for qualifying tomorrow. We had a little problem with a rear tyre in FP2 but I am happy with the start to the weekend and feel I can build on my pace tomorrow. I have a really good feeling with my Yamaha R6 and I enjoy riding under the floodlights here in Qatar, so bring on tomorrow!"