WorldSSP: NRT's Cluzel misses title after fall, Gradinger ends P4 again in Qatar
India's Nerds Racing Team's Jules Cluzel started the all-important final weekend in the 2018 FIM World Supersport Championship at Losail International Circuit in Qatar finishing fifth, fourth and third in the three practice sessions abode #16 Yamaha R6.
Teammate Thomas Gradinger was 11th, 12th and seventh respectively on his #36 Yamaha R6. He had to go through Superpole 1 where he finished on top amid an improved run as he then finished ninth in Superpole 2.
The fight for pole though was intense with GRT Yamaha's Lucas Mahias taking pole from the two title contenders Kallio Racing's Sandro Cortese in second and Cluzel in third. With Mahias was re-instation for his win in Portugal, the gap between Cortese and Cluzel was five.
With rain falling on raceday, the schedule for the races changed as the organisers had no choice but to postpone all the sessions to allow for the riders to compete at the best and safest condition of the circuit.
After all the delay, the race got underway as Cluzel made a dream start to lead from Cortese with Mahias dropping to fourth. It was then a back and forth between Cluzel and Cortese as the German eventually got the lead on Lap 3.
Cluzel stayed on his tail and re-took the lead on Lap 9 but Mahias powered through on the next lap to clear both Cortese and Cluzel in the lead with Cortese managing to get second as well from Cluzel - to make it now or never for the Frenchman.
In an attempt to pass Cortese, unfortunately, Cluzel crashed in Turn 12 which ended any chance of him winning the title as Mahias won the final race from the 2018 champion Cortese and GRT Yamaha's Frederico Caricasulo.
Caricasulo though had a Gradinger on his tail as the sole remaining NRT rider ended fourth for the third straight time - only 0.024s behind Caricasulo. The Austrian had a sound outing as he rode to fifth on the opening lap of the race.
He then cleared GMT94's Corentin Perolari for fourth but was caught by Caricasulo and was passed as well as he dropped back to fifth. Cluzel's crash allowed him to fourth where he would finish as it was a strong end for the rookie rider.
In the end, Cortese took the championship with 208 points to Mahias' 185 with Cluzel dropping to third overall after his crash with 183 points. Gradinger ended up seventh with 86 points with NRT finishing second in teams' standings with 269 points to GRT's 328.
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