WorldSSP: Mahias takes thrilling home win as title challengers falter

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Unpredictability reigns in a dramatic WorldSSP race at the Pirelli French Round as championship favourites Randy Krummenacher and Federico Caricasulo both crashed out to leave the championship finely poised.

This left the door open for Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) to claim his first win of the season after a thrilling last lap scrap with Isaac Vinales (Kallio Racing).

As the race got underway, Jules Cluzel (GMT94 YAMAHA) immediately grabbed the lead from first-time polesitter Kyle Smith (Team Pedercini Racing) but there was drama behind with three riders colliding at Turn 1.

Maximilien Bau (GMT94 YAMAHA), Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Federico Fuligni (MV AGUSTA Reparto Corse) were the riders involved with the red flags immediately brought out. All three riders were conscious although they will be transported to Nevers hospital for further assessments.

The quick restart procedure was brought into effect and Cluzel made no mistake once again, edging ahead of Smith. The shortened 12-lap race exploded into life moments later as Randy Krummenacher highsided on the exit of the 180 corner. The Swiss rider was lucky to be avoided by Lucas Mahias, who was forced to take avoiding action, but his exit presented team-mate and title rival Federico Caricasulo with a golden opportunity.

The Italian responded by grabbing the lead on the second lap, slipstreaming past Cluzel and Ayrton Badovini (Team Pedercini Racing) on the way into the Adelaide hairpin on Lap 2. The astonishing WorldSSP title battle took another unbelievable twist on Lap 4 though as Caricasulo, enjoying a two-second lead lost the front end of his Yamaha at Turn 13. He did remount and appeared on course to salvage some points before a second crash at Estoril ended his afternoon.

The championship fight now seemed to swinging in Jules Cluzel’s direction but the Frenchman couldn’t keep a busy pack of riders at bay. Isaac Vinales hit the front for the first time shortly after half distance with Lucas Mahias following through into second, setting the stage for a battle between the two that would keep us guessing all the way until the finish. Cluzel was also powerless to prevent Ayrton Badovini and a fast-finishing Raffaele De Rosa (MV AGUSTA Reparto Corse) moving through, leaving him to dispute fifth place with Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).

The corner speed of the Kawasaki in the hands of Lucas Mahias was proving a formidable prospect, with the 2017 champion cutting underneath Vinales at Estoril on Lap 8. Although the Spaniard would out-drag his opponent to the Adelaide hairpin, Mahias regained the advantage after a superior run through Imola put him in position to outbrake the Yamaha into Turn 13.
The race reached a thrilling conclusion with Vinales regaining the lead on the penultimate lap, but cheered on by the enthusiastic French crowd, Mahias shadowed the Spaniard through the final lap before diving up the inside into Turn 13.

Vinales had one last opportunity on the approach to the tight right-hander of Turn 15 but Mahias took the perfect defensive line, covering the inside and holding on for Kawasaki’s first WorldSSP victory since Kenan Sofuoglu at Portimao in 2017, ending Yamaha’s 24-race winning streak in the class.

The battle for third was also settled at Turn 15 on the last lap with Ayrton Badovini outbraking Raffaele De Rosa as MV Agusta missed out on a first podium since Imola. Hikari Okubo got the better of Jules Cluzel for fifth in the end with the GMT94 YAMAHA rider scoring ten valuable points to keep his slim championship hopes alive, closing to within 38 of series leader Randy Krummenacher.

Corentin Perolari (GMT94 YAMAHA) followed his team-mate home in seventh with Thomas Gradinger (Kallio Racing) producing an impressive recovery ride on his return from injury, climbing from 21st on the grid to finish eighth.

Polesitter Kyle Smith ultimately faded back to ninth, although this result was enough to crown him Europe Supersport Cup winner for 2019. Peter Sebestyen (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) completed a top ten which included all four manufacturers.

The Supersport World Championship now moves on to the Motul Argentinian Round at the Circuito San Juan Villicum with Randy Krummenacher retaining his ten-point lead over team-mate Federico Caricasulo. Jules Cluzel still holds an outside chance of the crown with two races remaining.

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