The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team suffered from a double dose of misfortune under the floodlights in Qatar on Friday, as both riders crashed out of Race 1 after having shown real promise throughout the weekend. Alex Lowes recorded his second consecutive front-row start and started Race 1 from P2 on the grid. During the race, he was involved in an excellent battle for second position before he crashed at Turn 16. He managed to rejoin but, due to damage sustained in the original accident, crashed again with two laps to go bringing a premature end to his race. His teammate Michael van der Mark qualified in seventh and was battling hard during the race to chase down the leading group when he was unlucky to make contact with another rider and crashed out on lap 7.
Lowes had been in sensational form on Thursday at the Losail International Circuit, with the 27-year-old British rider finishing practice in second overall on the timesheets, just 0.0.259s off the top. In FP3 he showed blistering pace to lead for most of the session, staying out for the entire time on the same set of tyres before finishing in third. He and his team made another step in SP2, with the 2013 British Superbike Champion setting a 1:56.675 to start his second consecutive race from the front row in P2.
When the lights went out, he was immediately involved in the battle at the front, passing Tom Sykes to move into second and then becoming embroiled in a brilliant three-way scrap for second with Xavi Forés and Chaz Davies, as he looked to record his fourth podium of the season. Passing Forés for third on lap ten, he set his sights on Davies ahead of him, closing the gap dramatically before losing the front at Turn 16 on lap 11. Unfazed, Lowes immediately remounted his Pata Yamaha R1 but rejoined the race in dead last. Riding at the winner’s pace, he quickly made his way up to 13th position before, with just two laps to go, he crashed again, this time at Turn 6 due to factors connected with the first accident. Lowes luckily escaped both crashes unscathed and will start Saturday’s Race 2 from the head of the fourth row in tenth position. He remains fifth in the overall championship standings with 226 points.
Van der Mark had also impressed throughout the weekend as the Pata Yamaha Team showed great pace in the desert, ending Thursday’s practice in fifth overall. The 25-year-old Dutch rider then made a step in FP3, showing a very strong race pace but in SP2, despite feeling confident on the race tyre once more, he could not quite make the qualifying tyre work for him and finished the session in seventh. Starting the race from the head of the third row, van der Mark made another got off the line well but got stuck on the outside at Turn 1 and found himself down in tenth place. Immediately he started to pass the riders in front of him, re-taking seventh by the end of the first lap.
He bided his time and waited for things to improve and in his usual style, he started to up the pace as the race went on. On lap 7, as van der Mark was closing down the riders in front of him, he just misjudged the pace of a struggling Tom Sykes as he lined up an overtake, clipping the back of his Kawasaki in Turn 9 and crashing out of the race. Luckily, Sykes was not affected and van der Mark was uninjured, although it sadly brought an end to his run of 11 consecutive point-scoring finishes. The 2014 Supersport World Champion will line up for Saturday’s Race 2 in 12th on the grid and remains sixth in the championship standings with 210 points, 16 behind his teammate with 25 points up for grabs in the final race of the season on Saturday.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team will take the positives from Friday in Qatar and are determined to bounce back in Race 2 at the Losail International Circuit which is scheduled for 21:00 pm local time on Saturday. Check out the full race results.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – DNF
“Obviously, I am gutted about what happened in the race. We have been really strong all this weekend, I was second overall after Thursday’s practice and we made another step today for SP2 to make it two consecutive front row starts. I was feeling really confident that I could battle for the podium during the race. I had a good start from the middle of the front row on the grid and, honestly, felt really good during the race, battling with the guys for second. I gave it everything to catch and pass Chaz but I just pushed a bit too hard and lost the front at Turn 16. Of course, I wasn’t going to give up and managed to re-join and fight my way back before somehow my glove got caught on the damaged brake lever and I crashed again. It was a disappointing end to a really encouraging day but I will bounce back in Race 2 tomorrow and give it everything to finish the season with a strong result!”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – DNF
“We made quite a big step today compared to Thursday and I was feeling pretty good in FP3. In SP2 I had a really good pace with the race tyre, but I couldn’t quite get the qualifying tyre to work for me but I knew I had a good pace for the race. I had a pretty good start but just got hung out to dry a bit at Turn 1, although I made up the places I had lost almost immediately. To be honest, at the beginning I was struggling with the pace a bit, I just didn’t have the speed to follow the guys in front but as the race went on, I was getting faster and faster and building my confidence with the bike. Unfortunately, through Turn 9 I was aiming to pass Tom Sykes into Turn 10 but we had completely different mid-corner speeds and I hit him quite hard – luckily, he didn’t crash. It is a real shame as I think we could have been in the top five, if not battling for the podium. I am really sorry and I hope to finish the race tomorrow inside the top five. It will be tricky from 12th on the grid but I will do my best to fight hard tomorrow.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“An obviously disappointing result in Race 1 here at Qatar after an extremely promising build-up, and the best race preparation that we have experienced all year. As always, the biggest positive is that both riders are uninjured and in both cases, as always when you are pushing the limits and looking to go forward, mistakes can happen. Both riders are talented and intelligent enough to use that experience to learn from it. Michael was caught out when Tom, who was clearly struggling a bit, was much slower in the middle of the corner than expected as he was lining him up for a pass. Fortunately, Tom himself was not negatively affected. Alex had closed right up on Chaz Davies’ back wheel to fight for second position and just asked a little bit too much of the front at the final corner. We are still really looking forward to tomorrow evening’s race. The guys have a lot of work to do from the fourth row of the grid but I am confident that Pata Yamaha can secure two good race results out of the Qatar weekend.”