2018 Phillip Island World Superbike Friday Press Releases

Press releases from the teams and organizers from Friday at Phillip Island:

#AUSWorldSBK– Day 1
Savadori can’t be stopped on Day 1 Down Under
Aprilia and Honda fastest on Friday to lead the charge towards the first qualifying sessions of the year

Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) stole the headlines and the timesheets on Day 1 of the Yamaha Finance Australian Round, leading the charge to Tissot-Superpole 2 with a 1:30.407 set in FP2 to go fastest overall. Behind the Noale factory machine at the top, Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) took P2 for Honda as he debuts with the Japanese marque, just clear of the second Aprilia machine of Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia).

With early morning drizzle, a dry FP2 and then rain once again in the afternoon ahead of the final session of the day, track conditions changed throughout Day 1 but did end dry. Regardless, the best laptime set by Savadori in FP2 remained at the top of the timesheets, unthreatened.

Behind the Aprilia-Honda-Aprilia lockout at the top, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) took fourth and was the fastest Kawasaki machine, just under a tenth faster than teammate and reigning champion Jonathan Rea. Rea was the first on the timesheets to set his quickest effort of the day in FP3, moving up a couple of places towards the end of play. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) finished up the first track action of the race weekend in P6 after topping a damp FP1, just ahead of 2014 WorldSSP Champion Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), who was the fastest Yamaha.

Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) led a trio of riders who improved in FP3 as he ended the day in P8, just ahead of fellow Panigale rider Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) completed the top ten, with the Brit having crashed in FP2 on his first flying lap but able to get back out in FP3 and secure his place in Tissot-Superpole 2.

Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) was the man to just get pushed out, but the American made a solid debut at the track despite a crash late on Friday from which he escaped unscathed. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was P12 and will be another rider pushing hard to move through from Tissot-Superpole 1 on Saturday – with Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Friday crasher Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) waiting in the wings to try and make it every manufacturer in the top 12 on the grid.

After FP4 bright and early on Saturday, only Tissot-Superpole will remain between the grid and lights out for Race 1. Qualifying begins from 12:30 local time (GMT `+11), and the first race of the 2018 season gets in gear at 15:00.

#AUSWorldSBK at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit: Friday

1. Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) 1:30.407

2. Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) +0.315

3. Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) +0.339

Aussie Wildcards and Regulars Begin Push at World Stage

February 23, 2018

It was an important day for Australia’s wildcards and regular contenders in their WorldSBK and WorldSSP Championship Round 1 ambitions. Friday being their last chance to get comfortable with their machinery ahead of a big weekend.

Australia’s Wayne Maxwell (Yamaha Racing Team, YZF-R1M), Daniel Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team, YZF-R1M), Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda, Honda CBR1000RR SP) and Tom Toparis (Cube Racing, Kawasaki ZX-6R) all took to the track for their practice sessions. All four wildcards noted that it was a fantastic opportunity to fly the flag for Australia and show off their talents to the world.

Herfoss lead the charge for Australian wildcard riders, finishing the three WorldSBK Free Practice sessions in 19th position, with a combined time of 1:32.683, Maxwell was hot his heels with a time of 1:32.723 and Falzon finished the day in 21st position with a time of 1:32.991.

Maxwell commenting after the first practice session; “The first session took place on a drying track. We rode around, kept the bike in one piece. Its looking like conditions may be wet this weekend at times. It’s a fantastic opportunity to be racing as a wildcard in the WorldSBK championship and to do it with our Australian Yamaha Racing Team makes it even better. I think with how strong ASBK competition is at the moment, it’s good enough to ride at the world level.”

Herfoss shared his joy with competing on the world stage; “It’s hard to explain, I grew up watching WorldSBK and it’s been my life long goal to ride at this level. The two-day test early this week was an amazing feeling to be out on the track and riding with these guys, it was great to get that out of the way and settle the nerves and now I’m ready to go racing over the weekend and do the best job I can for my team.”

Toparis finished the day in 17th position in the World Supersport class with a combined time of 1:35.879, to put himself in a solid position after the two Free Practice sessions on Friday.

Toparis Shared; ”It’s pretty cool to be a wildcard in the WorldSSP Class, it reminds me a lot of last season when I rode in Moto3 as you are riding around with guys you watch on TV everyday. I’m really excited for this opportunity and I’m hoping the rain stays away as it makes the track a lot more fun and makes for better racing. We are liking the set up we have right now, as we aren’t far off the pace and if it stays dry over the weekend, we can really improve our times.

For the Australian regular on the WorldSSP stage, Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing, Kawasaki ZX-6R) has set himself for a real assault on the weekends racing, finishing in seventh position after Friday’s two Free Practice sessions. Fellow Australian Lachlan Epis (Team GoEleven, Kawasaki ZX-6R) finished in 19th position after both of Fridays Free Practice sessions.

Stay tuned throughout the WorldSBK Yamaha Finance Australian Round to keep up with all the wildcards and regular Australian contenders.

Milwaukee Aprilia make a flying start on day one at Phillip Island

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit 23 / 02 / 2018

Free Practice 1, 2 & 3 Report

Milwaukee Aprilia made an impressive start in Free Practice at Phillip Island as Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty ended the day first and third with an automatic Superpole 2 entry for both riders

Despite changeable conditions at the Australian track both riders demonstrated solid pace in the dry and the wet. Both set their fastest times in Free Practice 2, Lorenzo's blistering 1'30.407 the fastest of the day putting him P1 while Eugene's 1'30.746 moved him to P3, separated by 0.339s. Eugene's speed trap of 314 km/h was fastest of the day, cementing the outright speed of the Aprilia.

A damp Free Practice 1 was run on wet tyres, affording the riders opportunity to gain experience with the RSV4 RF on wet tyres at Phillip Island with rain forecast over the weekend. The riders rose to the challenge, Eugene's 1'43.384 leaving him P3, with Lorenzo's 1'44.698 putting him P13.

A drying track allowed riders to move on to slicks in FP2 where Lorenzo and Eugene set about lighting up the time sheets. Neither rider improved their times in FP3, electing to work on set up, race pace and tyre life ahead of Saturday's Race 1.

The team will next be on track in Free Practice 4 on Saturday 9:40 local time (GMT +11) ahead of Superpole 2 (12:55-13:10) and the race at 15:00.

Shaun Muir - Team Principal

"It's been a positive Friday at our first race of the year. It's encouraging to see the lap times so close between all the teams, and clearly the rule changes are having some effect.

Our comparative times from last year have improved, and we have halved the gap to the leading riders. Our Free Practice times are encouraging but we must stay focused, and ensure that we have good race pace that will keep us in a strong position up to the chequered flag. We all know that a single lap at Phillip Island doesn't guarantee anything over a race distance.

That being said it was a fantastic performance from all the team, and it's great to see good moral and a real focus on both sides of the box. Hopefully we will wake up tomorrow morning to blue skies and a dry Superpole and race."

Lorenzo Savadori #32 - Aprilia RSV4-RF

Combined Free Practice time:

1'30.407 - P1

P2 time:

1'30.722 (+0.315)

“I'm happy to end the day P1 and make Superpole 2. Of course we have more work to do still for the race pace, but we have another session tomorrow morning to improve so that we are in an even better position.

The weather today was quite difficult but it was the same for all. Aprilia Racing and SMR have worked really hard over the winter on the bike so we have good speed in all conditions. The top riders are still quick for sure, but we have made a lot of progress and I think today we have shown this.

It is difficult to say now how the race will go tomorrow, we still have some more long run practice to do and Superpole first. I know the team will work hard tonight, and I am really looking forward to racing again."

Eugene Laverty #50 - Aprilia RSV4-RF

Combined Free Practice time:

1'30.746 - P3

P4 time:

1'30.882 (+0.136)

“It was a great day all in all, the bike felt fantastic to ride even in the wet this morning which was good to box off. Then we went out on dry tyres and we were straight into the top of the times which was really promising. To be top three has left me feeling really confident.

We have a choice of rear tyre for tomorrow which will be a big factor. We've used the data from testing and today and looked closely at it, the grid seems to be split on the choice which leaves things up in the air but we'll be smart in our decision.

Ahead of tomorrow's Superpole and the race I'm hoping for dry weather, like everybody is. That said the bike still felt great in the wet and it would make it more exciting for sure. Either way we have some more things to try in FP4 tomorrow, and I can't wait to see what the race brings."

Camier off to a flying start on opening day at Phillip Island

The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team got off to a flying start at the 2018 WorldSBK season opener as Leon Camier set the second fastest time and Jake Gagne finished in eleventh place overall in today’s Free Practice sessions at Phillip Island Circuit in Australia.

On a day of unsettled weather, both Camier and Gagne showed strong pace in wet and dry conditions and it was in the early afternoon Free Practice 2 session that both riders set their best time, Camier’s scorching 1’30.722 made him the second fastest today, while Gagne’s 1’31.689 saw him finish just outside the top 10.

The first session of the race weekend, Free Practice 1, took place in damp conditions offering both riders valuable track time with the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 on wet tyres and Camier and Gagne took to the task quickly finishing in P7 and P14 respectively.

The dry Free Practice 2 session allowed the riders to launch a time attack on slick tyres for the first time and although neither rider was able to improve their lap time in the day’s final session, the focus for Free Practice 3 was evaluating slick tyre performance during longer runs and fine-tuning bike settings for the race.

The next WorldSBK session is tomorrow’s Free Practice 4 at 0940 local time (GMT +11) before the Superpole 1 (1230-1245) and Superpole 2 (1255-1310) sessions with the first race of the season set to get underway at 1500 local time.

Leon Camier 2

Today went well, after trying many things in testing for today we went back to our base setting and the bike felt great and I was able to set a good lap time in FP2. I'm happy with my pace today and we just need to keep working and make things a fraction better for the race which I expect to be a tactical battle with many riders on similar race pace. Riding the Fireblade in the wet today for the first time was also a good experience and I felt very comfortable on the bike straight away which is important. Overall, it was a good start and I feel like I'm ready for the race regardless if its in wet or dry conditions.

Jake Gagne 45

We started off in the rain in FP1 today and it was really good to get some wet track time around Phillip Island and I felt comfortable on the bike straight away. For the dry session in FP2 we tried something different setting wise compared to what we ran in the test and it made a big difference for me, I could push a lot more and it was good to end that session in the top ten. In FP3 I felt even better with the bike and tried to stay in the top ten but pushed a bit hard and had a small crash but it was nothing too serious, now I want to try and qualify for Superpole 2 and have a good first race.

Kervin Bos

Team Manager

It was a great opening day at Phillip Island, we had mixed conditions today but both riders were able to get up to speed quickly on both wet and slick tyres. Leon did a fantastic lap in FP2, he and his team have been working hard and today you could see just what a good package the Fireblade is at the moment. Jake was unlucky to miss direct qualification for Superpole 2 and he had a small crash but I'm very happy with how he went today as he made a big step from testing. So it was a really good opening day, it is now up to us to see how much we can push towards the front in qualifying and the race tomorrow.

New Look First Day For KRT In Australia

KRT riders Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea took part in a new-look Friday on the opening day of the 2018 season, with three 40 minute practice sessions now replacing the two one hour long practices of 2017. Sykes finished fourth fastest overall and Rea fifth today, with both Ninja ZX-10RR riders earning automatic Superpole 2 places in the process.

Overnight rains affected FP1 today, with most riders posting their fastest laps in the dry FP2 session knowing there was another 40 minutes available in which to make a final push.

Jonathan was one of the few riders to go faster in the third session, after trying some different machine settings from those he used in the recent official tests earlier today.

Sykes almost joined Rea in setting an even better lap time in FP3 than his previous 1’30.882 but was still well inside the leading group, one place up on Rea. After good set-up work on used tyres, Sykes is fully prepared for race one on Saturday - if the conditions turn out to be dry.

With both official Ninja ZX-10RR machines clearly inside the top free practice places, preparations now begin inside the KRT garages to qualify well in Superpole 2 and ensure that each rider takes a leading grid position for race one.

The first race of the new season will take place on Saturday 24th February and race two on Sunday 25th, with both events scheduled for 15.00, local time.

Tom Sykes, stated: “I am very happy with today’s results. We have just done a long run on the tyres. In that last FP3 session we used the tyre from the previous session, so it has 28 laps on it now. My fastest lap today was on lap 16 on that same tyre, so I am happy. We were going to use a new set of tyres later today but we tried a couple of new things on the bike and it is working flawlessly at the moment. I am really enjoying riding it and I’m looking forward to the race. If it is dry then we are very well prepared.”

Jonathan Rea, stated: “We put everything together and tried something we were thinking about from the test, to put together for the weekend. Unfortunately we missed the first session due to rain and in the second session the change we tried was not exactly right. We tried something a little bit different for the last session to try and give me a bit of front end confidence, and I got it. Not many people improved their lap time in the last session but I was constantly on a really good pace in those conditions and I feel good for tomorrow. I was on course to be fastest but I had a huge moment in T11. I just got a little bit too excited because I knew it was a good lap time!”

Melandri 6th and Davies 9th in Friday's practice sessions at Phillip Island: the first race of 2018 awaits the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team

The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team resumed action on track today at Phillip Island (Australia) for the first free-practice sessions of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship. With a new format, which translates into three 40-minute sessions, the riders practiced in the wet early on, but then took advantage of improving weather conditions. Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies finished respectively in 6th and 9th position in the combined rankings, both gaining direct access to Superpole 2.

In particular, Melandri worked with positive feedback on the weight distribution on his Panigale R to improve stability on the main straight, posting a 1:30.973 in FP2 and then focusing on tire wear. Davies, on the other hand, was one of the few riders capable to improve his lap times in FP3, in conditions theoretically more similar to those of the race, posting a 1:31.515.

The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team will resume action Saturday at 09:40 local time (CET +10) for the fourth and last free-practice session ahead of Superpole and Race 1, scheduled to start at 15:00.

Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #33) – 1:30.973 (6th)

"Today was positive, despite the erratic weather. I like this track a lot, and it suits our bike. I feel in great shape and, together with the team, we worked with more ease, given the year of experience under our belts. The Panigale R has improved since the tests. Tomorrow, it'll be crucial to ride a fast lap in Superpole and then find a pace that allows us to manage the tires better than the others. Many riders can be fast, but only a few will be competitive towards the end, once the tires drop."

Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7) – 1:31.505 (9th)

"Overall, it's been a positive day. The final lap times probably don't show the full picture here, and even though ninth position isn't exciting on paper, I feel happier than after the tests. We stepped forward a little bit despite the fact that we still have room for improvement. FP3 wasn't too smooth, we had a couple of issues that kept us in the garage for a while, but we're going in the right direction. Also, physically we seemed to have turned a corner. We're probably better off in a race situation than what we are on the time sheets."

Pata Yamaha Progress in Tricky Conditions on Friday at Phillip Island

Free practice

Mixed weather greeted the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team on Friday at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship and the team were forced to deal with mixed fortunes throughout the day. Michael van der Mark impressed during the official test earlier in the week at Phillip Island and kept up this form to finish Friday in seventh on the combined timesheets with a 1:31.114, 0.707s off the quickest rider. His teammate Alex Lowes showed superb fortitude to bounce back after a crash in FP2, which forced him to miss the entire session, making up for lost time in FP3 to set a 1:31.516 and end the day in tenth overall, with both riders making it through to SP2 on Saturday.

A key change to Friday's for the 2018 WorldSBK Championship is the inclusion of a third forty-minute practice session, with the top ten riders on the combined timesheets at the end of the day automatically making it through to SP2 on Saturday. This would prove to be vital as the weather played a crucial role on the opening day of the season, with rain in the morning meaning FP1 saw the riders out on wet tyres before conditions improved for a dry FP2, allowing riders to head out on slicks. Rain once more fell at the island before FP3, with a drying track meaning riders had to push to the absolute limit to try and improve their times.

Van der Mark showed great pace during the official test earlier in the week and was determined to get his 2018 campaign off to the best start possible. Despite the wet conditions in FP1, he immediately settled into a good rhythm on his Pata Yamaha R1, ending the session in ninth after setting a 1:41.939 and gaining some valuable wet track time, which could be essential with a mixed forecast for the rest of the race weekend. The 25-year-old Dutch rider then improved to a 1:31.114 in a dry FP2, before using FP3 to focus on his setup and race pace. While van der Mark did not improve during the final session of the day he managed to display excellent consistency once again and his time from FP2 meant he ended the day seventh overall on the timesheets, 0.707s off the top, which was good enough to cement his place in Superpole 2.

His teammate Lowes got off to a great start in the morning's FP1, making the most of the wet conditions to finish the session in fifth with a 1:43.472. Unfortunately for the 27-year-old British rider, he then made a small mistake and crashed at Lukey Heights on his first flying lap in FP2 and, while he walked away unhurt, his bike suffered considerable damage. Forced to miss the rest of the session as the team repaired his Pata Yamaha R1 and, having not been able to set a time in the dry, Lowes watched on nervously as rain fell before FP3. Luckily, the rain went away before the start of the session and while conditions were not perfect, the 2013 British Superbike Champion immediately went out and made up for lost time, setting a 1:31.596 to move into the top ten within minutes of the session being green flagged. He improved again towards the end of FP3 to a 1:31.516 to secure tenth overall on the combined timesheets and ensure that he joined his teammate in making it through automatically to SP2 on Saturday.

The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action on Saturday at 9.40 am local time for FP4, with SP2 at 12:55 pm and Race 1 scheduled to start at 15:00 pm. Check out the full results.

Michael van der Mark

Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 7th - 1:31.114

"We had a pretty good first day overall! The first session was a bit cold and the conditions were mixed, but we did okay. In the second session, we had a dry track and I went out and was fast from the start, just like in the test, so I was really happy. I wanted to improve the turning with the bike, so in FP3 we tried a few things but they didn't really improve the feeling, so we went back. The grip wasn't really there in FP3 like we expected, because of the rain between sessions, so we struggled a bit but at the end of the day our pace was quite good and consistent, so I am happy and I can't wait to get racing!"

Alex Lowes

Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 10th - 1:31.516

"It was a difficult day! I felt okay in the wet session this morning but in the second session I crashed on my first lap, which was an unfortunate mistake, so I missed the whole of FP2. Then in the final session, we tried piecing together all of our best settings from the test but I didn't quite have the feeling I was expecting, so we have a bit of work to do in the dry. It wasn't too bad, although my feeling with the R1 is not really as good as I want, but the team are working as hard as they can to improve this. I just need to find a bit more confidence from the front of the bike, especially on corner entry, to help me maintain a good lap time. That is what we will work on for tomorrow. We will have to wait and see what the weather brings but I am looking forward to the first race of the season!"

Paul Denning - Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal

"It's been a challenging day for all the teams at Phillip Island with very changeable weather. On this particular circuit, which seems to attract four seasons in one hour, let alone one day, it can make preparations for the race quite tough. Both Alex & Michael were quite comfortable in the wet conditions during FP1, which was positive, and they had a good feeling with their R1s in the slippery conditions. For FP2, we were faced with much cooler conditions but a dry circuit and Michael did a very solid job, again showing excellent consistency and working on race pace. Alex, unfortunately, made a small mistake on his first timed lap and the accident damaged his R1 beyond repair during the forty-minute session. FP3 looked like it was going to be wet again but high temperatures and a good breeze saw the track in better condition than expected and Alex did a great job - considering he hadn't done any laps in the dry - to get straight into the top ten and only 0.5s of the best time in the session. Michael again, having evaluated a couple of different front suspension options, was fast at the end and also consistent. Alex is missing a little bit of track time and we will have to make some very careful decisions tomorrow to make sure we have got the best-balanced bike we can give him. Michael's preparation has been fairly seamless and there are just one or two adjustments to make before we go into the first race of the season tomorrow."

Gulf Althea BMW hindered by a crash in Australia

Phillip Island (Australia), Friday 23 February 2018

The 2018 Superbike World Championship is officially open for business. Today, the Gulf Althea BMW Racing team was out on the Phillip Island track for the first timed practice sessions of the traditional Australian season-opener.

In a change to the programme for 2018, Friday now comprises three timed practices, of 40 minutes each (compared to two sessions last season). Loris Baz, excited to begin his first race weekend on the Althea BMW, had hoped to start off on the right foot, but unfortunately an unexpected crash conditioned his performance during day one.

Rain overnight made for a wet track for the morning’s opening session. With times therefore reflecting the conditions, Baz closed in fourteenth place (1’45.461). Durante the subsequent session, and on a dry track, the Frenchman set a good time, a 1’32.340, in the early stages but unfortunately this was followed by a crash on the very next lap, which has left him with a painful shoulder and knee. Unable to improve on that time in the third and final session, Baz finished in sixteenth position overall and will therefore face tomorrow’s Superpole 1.

Loris Baz

"Not how I wanted to start the year. The first session was wet and it’s the first time I was using the Pirellis in those conditions for four years. But performance was good, I was top five early on and then worked to understand some things. Session two started out OK and I set a 32.3 but unfortunately lap three brought a nasty crash after I suffered a technical problem as I was braking into turn 4. I’ve hurt my shoulder and knee. This afternoon to be honest I tried but was in pain and in the end I couldn’t improve on my lap time. I will try my best tomorrow but unfortunately the goalposts have now shifted a little. I’m disappointed because we’d worked hard all winter and we didn’t need the crash, but we’ll see what we can do…”

Genesio Bevilacqua

"A very unlucky Friday. The wet session didn’t go too badly but unfortunately an unexpected crash in session two complicated things for us. At first it didn’t seem too bad, but Loris has injured his shoulder, damaging the tendons I think. He’s not broken anything, but he struggled to ride in the final session. I’m really sorry, it’s a shame because we were ready to compete at a higher level. We’ll see if we’re able to score a few points tomorrow, but it will depend on how Loris is of course.”

Mahias leads the march to Tissot-Superpole 2
The reigning Champion ends Day 1 on top, with Krummenacher and Cortese on the chase
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) continues to reign in Australia

Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) leads the World Supersport ranks into the first Tissot-Superpole sessions of the year, with the Frenchman – and reigning champion – ending Friday action exactly four tenths clear of nearest rival Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team). Swiss rider Krummenacher returns to the class in 2018 after proving a race winner two years ago and was immediately up to speed to impress, as was the fastest rookie on Day 1, 2012 Moto3™ World Champion Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing).

Friday at Phillip Island was a damp one, with early morning drizzle then drying out – before rain over the break in the middle of the day affected track conditions once more. The only two men to improve in the second session were five-time champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and newcomer to the class Mike di Meglio (GMT94 Yamaha) as the track just about dried out by the end of the session. Sofuoglu, with his 1:33.576 in FP2, ended the day in fourth behind Cortese, leapfrogging Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) to put Kawasaki into a top five dominated by Yamaha and completed by Caricasulo.

Raffaele de Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) was the quickest Italian machine in sixth – just ahead of Aussie home hero and second Kawasaki representative Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing), who took seventh and goes straight through to Superpole 2 on his return to the class. Championship stalwart Jules Cluzel (NRT) was eighth fastest on Friday, ahead of British rider Luke Stapleford’s (Profile Racing) Triumph Daytona 675. Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini) completed the top ten as the final direct graduate to Tissot-Superpole 2 – with his Honda making it five manufacturers heading through to fight for the top ten on the grid.

Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) just missed the cut and will be pushing to move through on Saturday in Suerpole 1, as will Ayrton Badovini (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag), who was within a tenth of the Finnish rider ahead of him.

After FP3 on Saturday morning, the first Tissot-Superpole session of the 2018 WorldSSP season gets underway in the afternoon – with lights out to decide the grid at 13:30 local time (GMT + 11).

#AUSWorldSBK WorldSSP at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit: Friday

1. Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) 1:33.103

2. Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Even Bros. WorldSSP Team) +0.400

3. Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) +0.060

GRT Yamaha Impress on Friday at Phillip Island

Free practice

The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team got off to a superb start on Friday despite changeable weather at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship at Phillip Island. Reigning WorldSSP Champion Lucas Mahias put in a dominant performance to top the combined timesheets by 0.400s after setting a 1:31.130 in the morning's dry FP1 session before a damp FP2 saw most riders fail to improve their times in the afternoon. His teammate Federico Caricasulo also impressed in the tricky conditions as he finished in fifth overall with a best time of 1:31.827, set in FP1, 0.724s off the pace of his teammate.

Mahias was determined to get his title defence off to the best possible start at Phillip Island and even the mixed weather could not knock the 2017 WorldSSP Champion off his stride. Morning rain saw FP1 take place on a drying track but the 28-year-old French rider still managed to set a blistering pace on his Yamaha R6, topping the session by four-tenths of a second with a 1:33.130. Rain before the afternoon's FP2 session meant that most riders could not improve their times on a drying track, with Mahias instead focusing on finding a good setup in the wet, which could be vital with a mixed forecast for the race weekend. His time from FP1 secured his place at the top of the combined timesheets and Mahias now heads into Saturday confident whatever the weather.

His teammate Caricasulo also showed superb pace in both sessions, finishing FP1 in fourth after setting a 1:33.827 in the dry and regaining his feeling with his Yamaha R6 after a huge crash during the official test earlier in the week - due to a tyre failure - that completely destroyed his bike. The 21-year-old Italian then set about collecting some vital data during the wet afternoon session, completing a number of laps and impressing once again with his pace although, like most riders, he did not improve his time from the morning. Caricasulo ended Friday in fifth overall with his time from FP1, 0.724s off the pace of his teammate Mahias, with both riders making it through automatically through to Saturday's SP2.

To cap off an excellent opening day for Yamaha they completed a 1-2-3 on the combined timesheets, with Randy Krummenacher (Bardahl Evan Bros WorldSSP Team) in second and Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) in third. The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team are back in action on Saturday at Phillip Island at 10:10 am local time for FP3, with qualifying due to start at 1.30 pm. Check out the full results.

Lucas Mahias

GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 1:33.103

"Today was a very good day! I finished in first overall and my pace felt really good, which is a positive sign ahead of qualifying tomorrow. The problem with Phillip Island is that the information we gained during the test is not that relevant to the race, especially in the 600 class, because the slipstream can play such a big part here and you often see maybe, seven or eight riders fighting for victory. It always goes right down to the last corner! For tomorrow, my target is to start from the front as it is better for the race, but maybe it will rain. I managed to do about ten laps in the wet today and set the fastest time, so whatever the weather I am feeling confident for tomorrow!"

Federico Caricasulo

GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 5th - 1:33.827

"The weather conditions made today, the first day of the 2018 WorldSSP season, a bit trickier! Despite the changing conditions, I am happy with the work I did with my team. After the big crash in the final session of the test earlier in the week, it was important to regain my confidence and feeling with the bike. I managed to get back into a good rhythm, in both the wet and the dry conditions, so I am feeling good. Thank you to my team for all their hard work and I am already looking forward to SP2!"

Filippo Conti

GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team Manager

"The first day of practice has gone really well! Lucas put in a great performance and I am very happy as he looks really comfortable on the bike and it looks like he can do what he wants with it, which is very important to allow him to ride to his full potential. Federico made a good start in the morning as well, plus he was quick in the tricky wet conditions in the afternoon too. He has a phenomenal race pace and he is confident heading into SP2. I want to thank the whole team for doing such a great job and also Yamaha for always giving us such good support that allows us to go out and be fighting at the front!"

All to play for in qualifying at Philip Island

Posted on 23rd February 2018

CIA Landlord Insurance Honda’s Niki Tuuli narrowly missed out on automatic entry to Tissot Superpole 2 today at Philip Island and will be taking a step by step approach to move through in qualifying tomorrow.

The opening day of practice at round one was affected by wet then drying track conditions with only two riders improving on their lap times in the afternoon session leaving Tuuli with it all to play for on Saturday.

Tuuli said: “It was quite a difficult day today. After the big crash in testing I struggled to find the right feeling to ride. I have to ride smoother, I tried to push too much too fast. I just have to put it in my mind that I have to just go step by step. I’ll get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow is a new day.”

CIA Landlord Insurance Honda Team Manager Simon Buckmaster said: “It was wet today but then it did dry. I agree with Niki, he is trying too hard to make it happen, he knows that and we know that but we are a team that works with its riders to help them achieve the maximum of their potential. Niki needs to try to relax and smooth off. He did have a big off on Tuesday and it was a big off but we had a good feeling in the rain and it is due to rain tomorrow. First we need to get into SP2 and then do the best we can to challenge for a place on the first two rows of the grid. If we can’t win on Sunday we need to get as many points as possible. Last year we didn’t score in the first two rounds but we finished 3rd in the Championship and could have still won it. It’s a long hard year, there’s a lot of talented riders and teams out there, we know that and it’s all to play for.”

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Because while that sense of yours is likely correct as far as the whole championship is concerned, this is PI after all and even during these last two seasons, the races have been splendid. I don't think this weekend will be any different.