The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team bounced back in incredible style on Saturday under the floodlights in Qatar at the final round of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship, to confirm the progress made this year after their unfortunate double DNF in Race 1. Alex Lowes rode one of his best races of the season to charge from 10th on the grid to third, claiming his fourth podium of 2017 and ensuring he ended the year on a high. Not to be outdone, his teammate Michael van der Mark was also involved in the battle for the podium, just missing out as he crossed the line in fourth behind Lowes, to cap off a season that has seen the Pata Yamaha Team emerge as serious WorldSBK contenders.
Lowes was determined to bounce back in the final race of 2017 after Race 1’s misfortune, but had his work cut out for him from tenth on the grid. When the lights went out, the 27-year-old British rider had a good start and set about finding his rhythm on his Pata Yamaha R1. Up into eighth by the end of the first lap, he continued to make superb progress and by the fourth lap, he had fought this way up to fourth, just behind his teammate van der Mark, who had made a sensational start and was closing the gap to the leaders.
As the race developed, Lowes’ pace got quicker and quicker as he hunted down his teammate, making an excellent move entering Turn 1 on the 13th lap for third position. He then set his sights on Chaz Davis and Jonathan Rea ahead of him, matching the Kawasaki and Ducati for pace and showing just how much the Pata Yamaha R1 has improved in 2017. To highlight the progress made this season, Lowes’ R1 recorded the highest top speed down the 1068m straight at the Losail International Circuit, a scorching 320.5kph. Pushing as hard as he could in the latter stages, the 2013 British Superbike Champion managed to stick with Davies, but could not quite get close enough to challenge for second position, eventually crossing the line in third just 4.185s behind the race winner Jonathan Rea, to finish the season in style. Lowes’ fourth podium of the year sees him end 2017 fifth in the championship standings with 242 points and he now heads into the winter break full of confidence and looking forward to 2018.
His teammate van der Mark had also suffered from bad luck in Race 1, as he crashed out after a misjudgement saw him make contact with Tom Sykes bringing an end to his incredible run of 11 consecutive point-scoring finishes. Like his teammate Lowes, he showed what he is made of on Saturday in the hot and humid conditions in Qatar as he pulled off a breathtaking ride in Race 2. Lining up 12th on the grid, he made a blistering start that, incredibly, saw him up into fifth by the end of the first lap.
Showing scintillating race pace, he stayed within two seconds of Davies and Rea ahead of him until lap 9 but, unfortunately, in charging through the field in such aggressive fashion, he had used up his rear tyre. When his teammate Lowes made a move on him with 5 laps to go he did just did not have the grip levels to fight back but, undeterred, he continued to ride superbly and match the pace of the riders in front of him to bring his R1 home in fourth, to complete an excellent end to the season for the Pata Yamaha Team. In doing so, he recorded his 20th top ten finish of the year and secured sixth in the championship standings with 223 points but, more importantly, confirmed the pace he had shown in the last few rounds, establishing himself as a regular podium contender in the process and the 2014 Supersport World Champion is already looking forward to the start of the 2018 season.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team ended the season on a high and will now head to the official off-season test in Jerez on the 22-24th of November full of confidence and knowing that they are entering into the 2018 season in the best possible way. Check out the Race 2 results.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 3rd +4.185s
“Yesterday’s race was really hard to take for me because, honestly, I felt really good all weekend and I just made a mistake in the last corner when trying to challenge Chaz Davies. Unfortunately, it was a little mistake that had a big consequence. It was hard mentally to come back today and push hard as I knew starting from tenth was going to be difficult. In the first six laps, I didn’t feel as good on the bike as I hoped to. I was losing time to the riders in front but then I felt really strong and I was coming forward all the time and was able to match the leaders’ pace. It is fantastic to get a podium after the crash yesterday; the team and Yamaha fully deserve it and I am happy to end the season like this and go into the winter break with a smile on my face and motivated next year to fight the top guys at every race!!”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 4th +5.843s
“It’s been a good last race of the season and I am happy with fourth place after coming from 12th on the grid. I had a really good start and a strong first lap, plus I was feeling so much better with the bike today than yesterday and my pace was quite good. I tried everything to follow Chaz Davies but could not close the gap and Alex was closing quickly behind me, then he passed me and I couldn’t stay with him because I had used up my rear tyre. To finish the season with Alex on the podium and myself in fourth is really good because in the last couple of races we have improved so much with the R1. We have been more consistent and it gives us something to build on during the winter and for the new season with the new rules. I am looking forward to testing again and already I am thinking about Race 1 in Phillip Island next year!”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“This evening’s race was a great way to end the 2017 season for Alex, Michael and the whole Pata Yamaha Team! The performance from both riders from the fourth row of the grid, after last night’s misfortunes, is another confirmation of the steps taken, especially in the second half of this season, and gives us real confidence going into the winter and the 2018 season. We are getting consistently closer to the championship’s dominant riders, backed up by the fact that on lap 3 Alex was 3.3s behind the leader and on lap 15 had actually closed the gap to 3 seconds. The pace of the Yamaha R1 has improved significantly and there are more exciting developments coming in the test at the end of November. Whilst it is positive to look forward, I would also like to reflect on this season and thank everyone involved in the project for their dedication and hard work in helping Yamaha to become a serious contender for WorldSBK honours. In addition, a fond farewell to Alex’s crew chief Ian Prestwood who is moving onto a new project, and a big “welcome” to former Yamaha WorldSBK rider Andrew Pitt who will work with Alex in 2018. Finally, huge congratulations to Lucas Mahias and the GRT Yamaha Team on winning the WorldSSP Championship after an incredible end to the season.”