It was a mixed Saturday for the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team at the Lausitzring for round nine of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship as Alex Lowes pulled off an excellent ride to secure sixth, whilst his teammate Michael van der Mark suffered a loss of rear tyre pressure that saw him cross the line in 15th. Lowes rode superbly to finish less than 0.8s off the man in fourth, despite struggling a little on a full fuel load at the start of the race. His teammate van der Mark had a great start during the race, but the rear tyre pressure loss – the reason for which is yet unknown – forced him to drop his pace significantly and he bravely bought his R1 home in 15th place.
Lowes made it directly through to SP2 on Saturday and the 26-year-old was on blistering form, managing to set a 1:36.7745, just 0.653s from pole, to start Race 1 from the head of the third row in seventh. When the lights went out for Race 1, Lowes made a superb start, cutting inside at Turn 1 to move into fifth and breaking away from the rest of the pack with the leading group of five. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite have the front-end confidence he needed on his Pata Yamaha R1 with a full load of fuel and so could not take the fight to the leaders in the opening laps, but instead became involved in an excellent race-long battle with Leon Camier. On lap 4 Camier passed Lowes for fifth, but as the race went on the feeling with his R1 improved dramatically as the fuel load dropped, allowing him to fight back and start to chase down Camier and Marco Melandri ahead of him. Lowes pushed hard in the final laps and closed down the gap to the men in front dramatically but, unfortunately, he ran out of laps, crossing the line in sixth just 0.1s behind the fifth-placed Camier and less than 0.8s behind Melandri in fourth. Due to the new grid rules for 2017, Lowes will line up on the front row for Sunday’s Race 2 in third and is confident the lessons learnt from today will allow him to make a step forward as he aims to secure his third podium of 2017.
His teammate van der Mark had to go through SP1 for only the third time in 2017 after he was unlucky with the timing of a red flag and the subsequent thunderstorm on Friday that saw him finish FP2 in 11th overall. The 24-year-old Dutch rider made a statement in SP1 as he went over 0.5s quicker than the rest of the field on a race tyre to finish the session in first and head into SP2 with his teammate Lowes. He went onto qualify in the middle of the fourth row in 11th and then made a blistering start when Race 1 got underway, blasting his way past a number of riders to be up to eighth by the end of the first lap. While pushing to join the battle at the battle at the front, he ran off track on the second lap and had to rejoin in 16th. Undeterred, the former World Supersport Champion started to battle his way through the field, making it up to 11th before he started to lose pressure in his rear tyre. As the tyre visually deflated, van der Mark bravely carried on, despite advice to return to the pits and retire from the Pata Yamaha team, who were worried for his safety. Incredibly, he managed to bring his R1 home in 15th to salvage a championship point, despite the fact that by the time he reached parc fermé his tyre was completely flat. Van der Mark will, therefore, line up on the grid for Sunday’s Race 2 at the back of the fourth row in 12th, eager to make amends for today’s bad luck.
This result sees Alex Lowes remain fifth in the championships standings with 158 points and extends his lead over the rider in sixth to 18 points. Van der Mark stays seventh in the standings with 130 points, just 10 points behind the rider in sixth place. The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team are back in action at the Lausitzring on Sunday at 9.30am for Warm Up, with Race 2 scheduled for 1pm.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 6th +16.783
“Today has been pretty good, I am quite happy with my race considering missing the test and yesterday’s dramas! I had a really good race with Leon Camier but, unfortunately, I didn’t quite have the front-end confidence to pass him. Fair play to him, he didn’t make one mistake and did a good job. I learnt quite a lot during the race today, my pace was honestly better than I expected and I think we can make some good steps for tomorrow. I am looking forward to Race 2, the R1 is working a lot better than last year at this track and I feel that I rode well today. I want to say thank you to my team who have done a great job this weekend, let’s see if we can take another step forward tomorrow!”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 15th +1:04.118
“To be honest I was happy with the way I made it out of SP1 into SP2. I went more than a second faster on my race tyre in SP1 than I had done so far, but in SP2 on the qualifying tyre, I didn’t have a great feeling. I think the rear was pushing the front, so I had to start from 11th on the grid. During the race, I had a good start but I started to struggle with the grip right from the early stages. I then made a mistake, although I am not sure what really happened, I ran off track and then had to fight my way through the field. To be honest, while my pace was not fantastic, it was better than in practice. I just focused on maintaining this pace, but then I started to get slower and slower and the bike was moving around a lot. I just finished the race as every point is vital in this championship, but when I got back to parc fermé I realised I had a completely flat tyre. We obviously have to find out how this happened, which we will work on tonight, and I will give my best again in Race 2 tomorrow.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“It has been a complicated weekend so far here at Lausitzring: thunder, lightning, tropical rainstorms, and some challenging issues also for the team to overcome but I think we have to be – on Alex’s side of the garage anyway – happy with today’s performance. Having not tested here we knew that trying to take the challenge to the top four was going to be difficult but Alex rode a very considered and intelligent race to look after his tyre, be fast but consistent, and in the end that meant missing out on fourth position by only seven-tenths of a second. Good job by him and his team and with this race experience under their belts and a couple more improvements for tomorrow, we look forward to starting from the front row and seeing what we can achieve. Michael did an excellent job in SP1 to do a 1:37.5 lap and dominate the session to make it through to SP2 earlier today. He also made a great start to the race from 11th on the grid, challenging immediately inside the top eight and had a good consistent pace going until, unfortunately, he began to lose pressure from the rear tyre before mid-race. The problem was clear watching from trackside so we became very concerned on the safety aspect and gave him the signal to enter the pits and retire, but typically enough, Michael managed the situation and even though there was only one point to be scored, he made sure he stayed out and achieved that. We are not sure of the cause of the pressure loss, but of course, it is critical that we find that information out as quickly as possible.”