The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team continued their stunning run of recent podiums in Race 1 at Laguna Seca on Saturday, Round 8 of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. Alex Lowes followed up his victory in Race 2 at the last round in Brno by charging from fifth on the grid to cross the line in a superb third place and secure his third podium of the season. His teammate Michael van der Mark struggled with grip levels during the race but battled hard from ninth on the grid to finish in a valiant eighth.
After collecting four podiums in the last four races, the Pata Yamaha team were confident heading into Saturday’s action at a sun-drenched WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, despite not enjoying the best results at the track in the past. Lowes had ended Friday’s practice in seventh overall after focusing on building a good race pace and built on this by ending FP4 in fifth. Heading straight into SP2, the 27-year-old British rider set a 1:22.729 and felt he could have gone even quicker were it not for a couple of small errors on his best lap.
When the lights went out for Race 1, Lowes enjoyed a good start and after some excellent overtakes he was already up to forth and setting his sights on the podium battle ahead of him by the end of the second lap. Lowes got his head down and showed great consistency in his lap times, managing to catch and pass Tom Sykes on lap nine and move up to third. Within two laps he had opened up a three-second gap to the riders behind him and managed this superbly all the way to the line to secure his third podium of the season. After the ninth WorldSBK podium of Lowes’ career, he moves up to fifth in the championship standings with 170 points, just 18 behind Sykes in fourth, and will line up for Race 2 seventh on the grid.
Van der Mark found it tough to find a good setup with his R1 on Friday at Laguna and had to go into SP1 after ending FP3 in 11th on the combined timesheets. Determined to use the extra track time to his advantage, after ending FP4 in tenth, the 25-year-old Dutch rider stormed through SP1 by topping the session with a 1:23.649. He then qualified in ninth for the race by improving to a 1:23.253 in SP2 after being denied a chance to improve on his final flying lap by yellow flags at the Corkscrew.
In the race, van der Mark got his usual lightning start and was up to seventh by the first corner. Battling hard in the pack, he dropped back to eighth as he suffered from a lack of grip with his R1 in the opening laps. As the race progressed, he stayed focused and started to close the gap to the riders in front. By lap 19, he was on a charge and hunting down Sykes who was in seventh, 2.5 seconds ahead. Pushing as hard as he could in the latter part of the race, he managed to close right up on the back wheel of Sykes but ran out of laps before he could get past, crossing the line in eighth place. This result sees van der Mark remain third in the championship standings with 204 points, just 21 behind Chaz Davies in second, and he will start Sunday’s Race 2 from the middle of the second row.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team are back in action on Sunday at 10:30 am local time (GMT-7) for Warm Up, with the 25-lap Race 2 due to start at 2 pm.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 3rd +12.212s
“I am really, really happy! The race itself wasn’t fantastic, the second part was quite boring as I needed to carefully manage my position, but I was really strong at the start and that allowed me to get the podium. To get a podium at Laguna on the Yamaha is beyond what I expected so I think we can be happy with the job we have done as a team. We will try to improve the setting of the bike a bit for tomorrow and see if we can have another go, and I just want to say a big thanks to the guys at Yamaha, Crescent and everyone involved in the whole project because to get a podium here, at what was our worst track last year, is testament to everyone’s efforts.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 8th +26.211s
“Today was tough. We struggled to find the right feeling on Friday and we thought we made a breakthrough in SP1 but then during the race, I just didn’t have the grip on corner entry or exit to push any harder. Towards the end of the race, I thought I would catch Tom, as he was also struggling, but I just ran out of laps. It is obviously a disappointing result, especially considering how competitive we have been lately, but we will study the data we collected today in the race and come back fighting tomorrow.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“A well-deserved podium today for Alex and an excellent indicator of the progress that the R1 and the Yamaha WorldSBK project has made this year. It is the kind of circuit that hasn’t been easy for us to use the best assets of the R1 in the past, and whilst we didn’t have the pace to challenge the winner, a very well-managed race by Alex with some excellent aggressive passes in the early laps has delivered a fantastic result. Congratulations to him on the positive momentum and we will try and take some more steps with the bike and see what we can do from the third row tomorrow. Michael had a less easy race but he kept his concentration and kept pushing. Unfortunately, from the very early laps, he didn’t have what he needed to move forward. It was a tough race for all the riders and very difficult to keep consistent lap times and ride accurately, so on that basis, we will be looking to find a way to help Michael perform better in Race 2 and to keep challenging the top three in the championship.”