Mahias dominated proceedings on Thursday in Qatar as he topped the combined timesheets by 0.412s. He followed this up by working on his race pace in FP3 before putting in his best qualifying performance of the season in SP2. In the heat and humidity of the desert, the 28-year-old French rider showed no signs of wilting under the pressure during qualifying, even after his first run was affected by a slight issue that meant he had to return to the pits. His team worked superbly to get him back out for the rest of the 15-minute session and, incredibly, on just his first real flying lap he set a 2:00.738 to smash the existing lap record from 2015 by 0.251s, in the process laying down a marker to his rivals for Saturday's race by finishing 0.546s ahead of the rest of the field. His feat was made even more impressive by the fact that the technical regulations in the class have changed significantly since 2015 to restrict performance, demonstrating just how much Mahias gelled with his Yamaha R6 around the Losail International Circuit. Mahias was delighted to secure his first pole position of the season and heads into the championship-deciding race knowing the title will be his, no matter what anyone else does, if he secures 6 points or more.
His teammate Caricasulo had also shown great pace during Thursday's practice as he finished in fourth on the overall timesheets. The 21-year-old Italian, like Mahias, used FP3 to focus on finding the ideal race setup with his Yamaha R6 and entered SP2 with the same mindset. Not trying to set a hot lap at the beginning, he focused instead on consistency and making sure he was in the best possible shape for the final race of the season on Saturday. At the end of the 15-minute session he headed out on his own and set a 2:01.734 to secure seventh on the grid for the race, confident in the knowledge that when the lights go out on Saturday he will have the pace to battle for the victory.
To round off an impressive day for Yamaha, Kallio Racing's Niki Tuuli made it a double front-row start for the manufacturer after qualifying in third, while his teammate Sheridan Morais will line up in sixth on the grid for Sunday's Race, meaning there were four Yamaha's in the top seven in SP2.
The GRT Yamaha Official Yamaha Team are focused and determined to achieve the best possible results on Saturday, with the championship battle going right to the wire in Saturday's 15-lap race which is scheduled to start at 19:30 pm local time in Qatar.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 2:00.738
"I am very happy! It is the last race of the season and I finally got a watch! Qualification was quite strange for me because I just relaxed, didn't really push, focused on being as smooth as I could, and the lap time was really good. On my quickest lap, I benefited from being behind Niki Tuuli for the last section of the track, which can really help in Qatar. I am so happy to secure my first pole position of the season and I am feeling very good on my Yamaha R6. My race pace is very good and pole is the perfect place to start the race tomorrow but, for sure, we will come up with a strategy. I don't need to push to win the race as the important thing is the championship and that is my main focus. I will try and remain calm and bring home the title for my team, Yamaha and my fans!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 7th - 2:01.780
"I am confident for the race. I spent the whole of SP2 without getting a tow, so my lap time is actually quite good. Sure, it could have been better but my focus has been on race pace all weekend. I feel very good with my R6 and I feel like we have prepared superbly for tomorrow. Starting from seventh is not ideal but I think I can battle at the front for the race win and I will try my best as always!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team Manager
"Lucas' lap in SP2 was simply incredible! With everything that is going on this weekend, to go out and smash the lap record was sensational. It was made even better by the fact he had a slight issue on his first run in the session, so he came back to the box and his team managed to fix the problem, meaning he only just got back out in time to set his pole lap. It was very important for himself and the team to start from pole tomorrow, not only for the mental reasons but because it means he can get a clean start. Federico, once again, showed brilliant race pace today but just missed out on really hot lap. We are sure that he can have a very good race tomorrow and the whole team is focused on bringing home the best results possible here in Qatar!"