Alex Lowes claimed his fourth podium finish of the 2019 season in Aragon today, finishing third in the Superpole Race after a titanic three-way battle with reigning champion Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies that went down to the wire. Michael van der Mark was the innocent victim in Michael Rinaldi’s turn one crash at the start of today’s sprint race but remounted to finish 15th. GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Sandro Cortese, claimed his seventh eighth successive top ten finish of the season with ninth place in the Superpole Race, while Marco Melandri again struggled with set-up issues, eventually finishing the 10-lap sprint in 11th position.
Lowes looked set to repeat the success of the Superpole Race in Race 2 this afternoon. However, after battling for second place throughout with Rea, Davies and Leon Haslam, the Pata Yamaha rider was forced to drop back as rear grip again dropped off with just three laps to go, eventually finishing fifth. His Aragon results mean that Lowes has consolidated his position in the championship standings, in which he currently lies third with 100 points after three rounds.
Van der Mark’s Race 2 was hampered by having to start from the fourth row of the grid, following the incident with Michael Rinaldi at turn one in the Superpole Race. The 26-year-old Dutch rider lined up at the start confident he could fight his way through the field and into the battle for the podium, as he did in Race 1 yesterday, but this time his progress was slowed by front-end chatter. Van der Mark was left with little option but to ride around the problem and pick up valuable points with eighth place at the finish. Van der Mark remains fourth in the series standings with 79 points, five more than fifth-placed Leon Haslam.
Cortese continued his run of form in this afternoon’s 18-lap Race 2, fighting his way through from the third row of the grid to claim tenth place at the finish. The WorldSBK rookie was happy to have maintained his record of finishing every race inside the top ten but felt that a top six finish was a realistic possibility today, had he not been held up by traffic in the early stages of the race. The GRT Yamaha rider is currently eighth in the championship standings with 39 points.
Melandri endured another difficult day in Aragon. The GRT Yamaha rider was baulked by Rinaldi’s crash in this morning’s sprint race and was then handicapped by his starting position and the same issues that he’s experienced throughout the weekend. Despite the problems, Melandri managed to finish in 11th place, but drops to sixth in the championship standing with 63 points. The Italian is, however, still leading the Independent Rider Championship from his GRT Yamaha teammate, Cortese.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – Championship Position 3rd – 100 Points
“After the podium in the sprint race this morning I was a little bit disappointed with fifth in Race 2, as I was expecting to be able to fight a little bit harder and longer with Jonathan and Chaz. It was nice to be battling with Leon again, after a couple of tough races for him, and we were nice and close a few times, especially into turn one! It was good fun, but I just didn’t have enough to stay in the battle until the end. The last two rounds have been strong ones for us and I’ve really enjoyed riding the R1, but now we just need to find small improvements so that we can fight it out over the last few laps of the race. Now I can’t wait to get to Assen, a track I and the Yamaha enjoy.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – Championship Position 4th – 79 Points
“I was really unlucky in the Superpole race. Rinaldi crashed right in front of me, there was no way to avoid him and down I went too. So we knew Race 2 was going to be difficult starting from 12th on the grid, but yesterday I started 11th and had a reasonable result, so I was hoping for the same today. I got a good start again, but didn’t gain as many places as I expected, because I was struggling with the front of the bike from the beginning. It was weird because I actually felt really strong on the bike, except in just a few corners where the chatter made it difficult. It’s a shame because, if I had the same front feeling as I had yesterday, I think the result would have been a lot better. Overall it’s been a tough weekend, but we made some steps forward yesterday, which we can learn from to ensure we’re ready for Assen next weekend.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – Championship Position 8th – 56 Points
“Overall this has been the best weekend we’ve had since stepping up to WorldSBK. Today was, let’s say, a little bit more difficult for us because we maybe went a little bit backwards, but yesterday was perfect; best independent rider, starting from the front row. Still, we had two top ten finishes today and we should be happy with that because we made always a step forward and didn’t crash all weekend. In Race 2 I had a bit of a problem overtaking Rinaldi, otherwise I think a top six finish was possible looking at my race pace. We know what we need to improve for Assen and, of course, with the results from the start of the season our expectations are now higher. I’m looking forward to Assen, as I think the track will suit the Yamaha.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – Championship Position 6th – 63 Points
“Even today was a very difficult day for me. We had some bad luck in the sprint race with the crash at the start and I had to start Race 2 from the fifth row of the grid, which was not easy, but the first four or five laps were not so bad. After that, suddenly, I had to brake so hard because I had no grip on the rear and then the front tyre dropped down and it was almost impossible to ride. I have had the same feeling and the same problem from the beginning of the weekend and that’s not been easy. So now we have to focus on some different setting solutions that should suit better my riding style.”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“Now we’re back in Europe we’ve been able to confirm that our development is in the right direction, as we can see the gap to the front has been reduced further, but we’ve also confirmed that Aragon is still a track at which we struggle somewhat, especially in the last few laps of the race. Alex did a fantastic job here; he has been fast all weekend and shown exactly the potential of the R1. He’s also shown just how much of a step forward he’s made in terms of his consistency, which is equally important. But it is clear that, from our side, we need to find an improvement with the R1 to allow him to fight for the podium right until the end of the race. Michael’s races this weekend were compromised by the issues on Friday, when it took too long for us to find a set- up he was comfortable with. We also need to improve in this area, speeding up the process of finding the proper set-up, not just for Michael but also for Marco, who had similar issues this weekend. Well done also to Sandro, who has continued his adaptation to the R1 and again finished three times inside the top ten here in Aragon. Overall the results this weekend have been a bit up and down. We’ve seen an improvement compared to where we were at this race last year but we’ve also identified areas on which we need to focus our development in order to improve still further.”