Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider, Alex Lowes, made a strong start to Round 3 of the FIM Superbike World Championship in Aragon today. The 28-year-old Briton, three times a podium finisher last time out in Thailand, was second fastest on the opening day in Spain, having posted a time of 1’50.126 in this afternoon’s second free practice session. Sandro Cortese ended the day sixth on the timesheet, with GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK teammate, Marco Melandri, five places further back in 11th. Michael van der Mark endured a difficult opening day in Aragon, finishing 12th on combined times after struggling to find a good feeling with his Yamaha YZF-R1.
Lowes was quick to make his mark as the first free practice session got underway in cool conditions this morning, with the Pata Yamaha rider quickly finding his rhythm around the fast and technical 5.077km Aragon circuit. A time of 1’50.819 saw Lowes finish the opening session in second position, but over a second behind the winner of the opening six races, Alvaro Bautista. Another significant step forward in this afternoon’s second and final free practice saw Lowes improve his lap time further, reducing the gap to Bautista to just half a second.
While Lowes enjoyed a strong opening day the same wasn’t true for his Pata Yamaha teammate, van der Mark. After a solid opening practice this morning, the 26-year-old Dutch rider went in slightly the wrong direction with set-up changes ahead of the second session, which he started late due to a technical issue. As a result, van der Mark was only able to make a small improvement to his lap time but he remains confident that a further step forward is possible tomorrow ahead of qualifying and the race.
Today may have been Cortese’s first aboard the Yamaha YZF-R1 at Aragon, but the reigning Supersport World Champion was quick to adapt to the demands of racing a Superbike around the technical 5.077km track. Ninth in the opening free practice session this morning, Cortese improved his lap time by almost a second to end the day an impressive sixth on the timesheet.
Melandri endured a difficult opening day in Aragon, with the Italian struggling to find a good feeling with the bike in both practice sessions, despite working through a number of set-up options. The GRT Yamaha rider will sit down with his crew to go through the data tonight, as they work to find a solution to the issues ahead of tomorrow’s all important qualifying.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P2 – 1’50.126
“It was a good start to the weekend today. We stayed on the same tyres for this afternoon’s session and, while I couldn’t do a long run because I’m still struggling a little bit with my wrist and don’t want to work it too hard ahead of the race, my pace was quite strong and I felt good on the bike. It was certainly the best feeling I’ve had on this track, which is really positive, and now I’m looking forward to getting back to it tomorrow and trying to improve in a couple of areas.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P12 – 1’51.103
“This morning wasn’t too bad; I felt quite good on the bike, the gap to Alex wasn’t so big and it was clear in which areas we needed to improve. This afternoon we had a small technical problem which meant I missed a few minutes at the start of the session, and after that I just struggled to feel comfortable on the bike. We reverted to a set-up closer to the one we ran this morning, which felt a little bit better and, together with a new set of tyres, allowed me to improve my lap time, but not as much as I expected. We have some work to do tonight, as I was struggling a bit mid-corner, but I’m confident we can find a solution ahead of qualifying.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P6 – 1’50.636
“A very positive opening. We worked hard between FP1 and FP2 because I struggled a lot initially this morning, but throughout the day we managed to improve a lot by making some big changes to the set-up of the bike. Of course, it was made more difficult by the fact that this my first time here on the Superbike and, while I know the racetrack, it’s different on the bigger bike. In FP2 the pace was there and now we need to see tomorrow how the race will go.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P11 – 1’51.053
“it’s been one of the most difficult days in the Yamaha R1 for me. I arrived with good expectations, as I have always had good results at this track, but today was very difficult. I was struggling to brake, to get the bike stopped, and getting the bike turned was also an issue, so it was not easy. We tried a lot of different things, but the result was the same. Tomorrow we will try to find a solution in the final free practice session by making some changes to the character of the bike, especially in the areas where, at the moment, I don’t feel very comfortable.”