Alex Lowes backed up a sixth-place finish in the Superpole Sprint Race this morning with a hard-fought fourth place in Race 2 at Laguna Seca, to end the weekend as the top-scoring Yamaha rider and to move up to third place in the championship standings. His Pata Yamaha WorldSBK teammate, Michael van der Mark, was unfortunate to miss out on a top ten finish after an incredible start to Race 2 when a technical problem forced his retirement after just four laps.
Lowes got a good start in the 10-lap Superpole sprint race but was forced to do it all again when the race was stopped on the second lap, following a crash at the Corkscrew for Yamaha wildcard rider JD Beach and Honda’s Alessandro Delbianco. Lowes ended he restarted eight-lap sprint race in sixth position, to secure a second row start for Race 2.
Another good start in the feature race saw Lowes immediately embroiled in a battle with Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam for fourth place. The battle continued until just past half race distance when the Pata Yamaha rider made his move to pass Sykes and then pull away from his two pursuers to finish fourth. With 28 points from the three races this weekend, Lowes moved up the championship standings to third place, where he now has a five-point advantage over teammate van der Mark in fourth.
After a crash in qualifying left him 15th on the grid, van der Mark went into the Superpole race determined to finish inside the top nine and secure a starting position on the front three rows of the grid for Race 2. Unfortunately, the Pata Yamaha rider missed out by just one place, finishing the shortened race in tenth position.
A lightning start from the fifth row of the grid saw van der Mark cross the line at the end of the opening lap in tenth place and targeting the group ahead of him battling for fifth. The Pata Yamaha rider’s challenge came to a premature end, however, when a technical problem forced his retirement from the race on lap four.
Loris Baz enjoyed a solid weekend in America, with seventh place in today’s 25-lap feature race making it three top-ten finishes at Laguna Seca for the Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider. The Frenchman moves up to 13th place in the championship standings with 76 points, despite having only contested three of the nine rounds this season.
It proved a more difficult weekend for the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri, but for different reasons. Cortese, making his debut at Laguna Seca this weekend, struggled with the effects of a shoulder injury sustained in his Donington Superpole crash and had to ride through the pain to pick up 2 points in 14th place today.
Melandri fared better, securing his second top ten finish of the weekend in ninth, despite struggling to make up for a starting position on the sixth row of the grid in the early stages of the race. At the halfway point the Italian was matching the lap times of the leading riders, but by that time the gap to the group ahead of him had stretched too far for him to regain contact and he was forced to settle for ninth place at the line.
Alex Lowes – P4 – Championship Position P3 – 220 Points
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK
“It was a fairly decent weekend, at a track at which we have always struggled a bit and were never really on the pace, but unfortunately it was the same for all the Yamahas. This afternoon I felt that I did the best that I could have – the leading trio were just too far ahead for me to make any inroads into their lead – so I’m fairly happy with fourth. The result means I’ve overtaken Michael in the championship standings and I’m now third, but it was a shame he had a problem with the bike today, as he’s done such a great job here and at Donington so soon after his Misano injury. But that’s racing sometimes and it’s certainly going to make for an interesting final four rounds with both of us determined to finish the season in the top three. I’m now looking forward to the Suzuka 8hr with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team, a little bit of time off and then back to WorldSBK at Portimão, a track that suits the R1 well and at which we will try to fight at the front again.”
Michael van der Mark – DNF – Championship Position P4 – 215 Points
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK
“We made some changes for the Superpole race that didn’t quite work as we were expecting, which meant I missed out on the top nine by just one place and had to start Race 2 from the fifth row of the grid. I had a really good start, made some early passes and was up to ninth at the end of the first lap. I felt so much better with the bike, a lot more confident and I could see the group ahead weren’t pulling away from me like they did yesterday. Once I managed to get past Loris Baz, I was feeling pretty comfortable and confident of gaining more places, but then we had a technical problem with the bike and I had to retire. It’s a big shame, because I was feeling better on my R1 than I had all weekend and we lost quite a lot of points. Anyway, we have a fairly long break now, of course including the 8hr race which is always a big challenge, and I’m sure we’ll be back really strong in Portimão – I love the track and I want to be fighting again to win.”
Loris Baz – P7 – Championship Position P13 – 76 Points
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK
“I was happy with my pace in Race 2 today. We took a bit of a gamble going with the X rear tyre because we didn’t know what to expect, but we had nothing to lose and here it’s really hard to overtake, so I knew that going hard from the start to build a gap could work. I had the best feeling with the bike of the whole weekend; here the Yamahas have struggled a little with the rear on corner entry, but today was better. It wasn’t easy to pass Jordi Torres, but once I was through, I just tried to be really consistent and not make any mistakes for the rest of the race. My pace at the end was a second and a half faster than yesterday, so I was happy to see such a big improvement. Three good races finished here and now we can look forward to testing at Portimão next month.”
Marco Melandri – P9 – Championship Position P9 – 138 Points
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK
“The goal was top nine and a decent grid position in the Superpole race, but I made a mistake trying to pass Markus Reiterberger and lost a lot of places. So, I started Race 2 from the sixth row at a track where it’s really difficult to overtake and where I have struggled to get the best from the new tyres. I just didn’t have the pace in the opening laps, but after 14 or 15 laps I was going much better, but by that time the gaps were too big, and it was too late. I would like to feel more comfortable on the bike, but this is the situation we’re in at the moment and I can only continue to do my best.”
Sandro Cortese – P14 – Championship Position P10 – 100 Points
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK
“It was a tough day and I was just happy to finish the race and pick up two points. This wasn’t our objective for the weekend, but it was all that was possible. Now I have to concentrate on my recovery during the summer break, to make sure I come back strong in Portimão ready for the last four races of the season. Thanks to the team for all their support this weekend and for doing such a great job. This was a tough race track to learn, especially with the injury, and a difficult weekend overall, but I’ve enjoyed my first visit to Laguna Seca and I’m looking forward to coming back to race here again.”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“It’s been a tough weekend, but we can also take many positives away with us from Laguna Seca. On Friday we saw that our R1 wasn’t as immediately competitive here at Laguna Seca as it has been at every other track this season, but our five riders made steady improvements over the course of the weekend and all were a lot more competitive in Race 2 this afternoon. Alex should be happy with his performance; he was consistently the quickest of the Yamaha riders and three solid race results here have elevated him to third in the championship standings. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of Michael, who also looked like he was on for a good result after an incredible start today, before a technical problem forced him to retire. It’s a shame his weekend ended this way, especially after doing such a great job so soon after a serious injury, but I’m sure the additional recovery time between now and Portimão will allow him to come back stronger than ever. The effects of Sandro’s Donington Superpole crash were worse than anticipated and he did well to finish the three races on such a physically demanding track this weekend. It was also a struggle for his GRT Yamaha teammate Marco, but he and the team never gave up and worked hard to make him more comfortable on the bike. The results of their hard work could be clearly seen in the second half of the race today, with Marco able to match the pace of the leading group. Congratulations to Loris on three top-ten finishes this weekend. The speed at which he and the Ten Kate Yamaha team have got to grips with racing the Yamaha R1 is a testament both to their work ethic and the competitiveness of our package. Now we focus on making another step forward at next month’s Portimão test, to ensure we finish the season as strongly as we started it.”