The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team rounded off a challenging weekend at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a double top ten finish in Race 2 in Sunday’s round 8 of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship. Alex Lowes bounced back from a DNF in Race 1 to secure a hard-fought ninth place after an excellent race-long duel with his teammate. Michael van der Mark crossed the line less than half a second behind Lowes in tenth to add to his eighth-place finish from Race 1. This result sees Lowes and van der Mark enter the summer break in fifth and seventh in the championship standings respectively, with the teammates now separated by just 19 points.
It was another glorious day at Laguna Seca and as the lights went out for Race 2 there were blue skies and track temperatures were hitting 52°C. Lowes made a steady start from the middle of the fourth row, slotting in behind his teammate van der Mark in twelfth place and pushing hard. The 26-year-old Brit showed his courageous character once more, despite struggling with the feeling of his R1 in the scorching heat, and set about closing the gap to van der Mark. On lap 5 he made an excellent pass on his teammate at the final corner to move into 11th and then tried to close the gap to the riders ahead. Despite giving it 100% and, like his teammate, showing excellent consistency with his lap times, he could not quite catch the riders in front. Instead, he became embroiled in an exciting game of cat and mouse with van der Mark, riding bravely to ensure that, despite the pressure from his teammate, he brought his R1 home to cross the line in ninth position and collected 7 championship points.
Van der Mark enjoyed a good start off the line from fifth on the grid but found himself dropping down the order in the first few corners as he also struggled for initial pace. By the end of the first lap, he was in eleventh place and being pursued by his teammate Lowes. He was passed by Lowes at the final corner at the end of the fifth lap, in a move that saw him lose drive onto the main straight and drop down to 13th. The 24-year-old Dutch rider recovered well and fought back to overtake Stefan Bradl for 12th on lap 11. He then set his sights on hunting down his teammate Lowes. For the rest of the race, he pressured his teammate, never leaving his back wheel and showing incredible consistency in his lap times. Try as he might he could not get past Lowes, but with other riders retiring and a number of crashes, he battled all the way to the end and finished the race in tenth place, just 0.497s behind his teammate to secure 6 vital championship points.
Lowes remains fifth in the championship standings but has increased his tally to 148 points, while his teammate van der Mark is now in seventh place with 129 points. The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team now head into the summer break, although both Lowes and van der Mark are competing for the Factory Yamaha Racing Team at the Suzuka 8 Hours on the 28th-30th July. They return to WorldSBK action on the 18th-20th August for round nine of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship at the Lausitzring.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 9th +33.044s
“It was a very difficult race. I didn’t feel comfortable with the bike but after everything that we have experienced this weekend it was good to at least finish and get a result. I’ve really struggled with front-end confidence here at Laguna Seca and those 25-laps were very hard work but I did what I could. I couldn’t push hard, it was a question of just riding as consistently as possible and trying to understand what we can do to improve our pace at this track in the future. It is clear that as a team we haven’t had the best setup this weekend, so now it’s time to get some rest from the WorldSBK calendar and come back stronger and fighting for podiums, which is what we have already shown we can achieve, at the next race in Germany.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 10th +33.541s
“It was tough today, I felt a had a good start but straight away from the first lap I didn’t have a good feeling with my R1. It is quite strange because we changed a lot again for the race. It has been a tough weekend; the only really positive session was Saturday morning but then the track temperatures were a lot cooler. As soon as the temperature started rising we struggled a lot. It is difficult to understand why we can do the same pace from the first to the last lap but not be quick enough at the start. We have to understand why this is and of course, we are not happy, but we will work hard during the break to ensure we come back fighting at the Lausitzring.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“Today was no easier really than yesterday’s race but at least both bikes finished in the top ten and both riders gave 100% effort. The Yamaha WorldSBK project has taken such a huge step forward in performance this year but here at Laguna Seca, much like Imola a couple of months ago, has been really tough and shown us where we need to improve. Our pace relative to the winners was the same as yesterday but compared to fifth place, we were very similar in terms of pace for the second half of the race, which is at least a small positive. The riders fly directly to Japan from here for more testing for the Suzuka 8 Hours and the team would like to wish them and all the Yamaha teams in the event at the end of July the best of luck. Let’s hope for a great result for Alex and Michael at Suzuka and a fresh start at the Lausitzring in the middle of August so we can get back to the level we know we can achieve.”