Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider, Alex Lowes, charged his way to third place and his first podium finish of the 2019 season in a closely fought WorldSBK encounter, run over 20-laps at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand. After shadowing his teammate throughout the race, Michael van der Mark was unable to mount a challenge on Lowes in the final stages and had to settle for fourth place at the chequered flag. Marco Melandri overcame the stability problems experienced on the two straights in Buriram yesterday to take sixth place, after an intense battle with Leon Haslam during the closing stages of the race. WorldSBK rookie, Sandro Cortese, racked up more experience and more championship points as he raced to seventh place this afternoon.
Lowes, starting from the front row of the grid after qualifying an impressive third during Superpole, was quick to find his rhythm in the early laps, battling briefly with eventual race winner Alvaro Bautista before getting his head down and maintaining a consistent pace.
Lowes came under pressure from van der Mark from mid-race distance onwards, but the 28-year-old Briton held his nerve and rode a fault free second half of the race to hold off his teammate for third. Today’s podium finish elevates Lowes to third in the championship standings with 46 points.
Van der Mark made an incredible start from tenth place on the grid, making up five places on the opening lap alone. The 26-year-old Dutchman had closed to within a bike length of his teammate by the halfway point in the race but didn’t have the additional pace needed to make a clean pass, forcing him to settle for fourth place at the line. The result promoted van der Mark up to fourth place in the standings with 42 points.
Melandri was still struggling with a lack of stability on the two long straights that are such a major feature of the Chang International Circuit and, while a set up change did alleviate the problem somewhat, the compromise was a reduction in rear grip. Despite the issues the GRT Yamaha rider enjoyed a strong race, battling closely with Haslam for fifth place, only losing out to the Briton in the final few laps as he eventually crossed the line to finish sixth. Melandri remains the leading independent rider, but slipped down to fifth place in the overall championship standings with 40 points.
Having lost touch with the group ahead of him by half race distance, Cortese endured a lonely second half of race. Despite being alone on track, the reigning World Supersport Champion maintained a consistent pace to finish seventh, his best result to date in a full length WorldSBK race.
The four Yamaha riders will be back on track tomorrow for the Superpole race, for which the lights will go out at 13.00 local time.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P3
“It’s a really good result, but I didn’t feel as comfortable in the race as I thought I would; I think the conditions were slightly different for the race compared to this morning. It meant I struggled a little bit with the front, especially with a full fuel load, but then I saw the front two had pulled a gap and my pit board was saying I had a group of three behind me, so I didn’t want to make a mistake. I settled into a rhythm that I knew I could maintain to the end, and even have a little bit left over to fightback if someone passed me. In the end the pace was high enough to pull a slight gap on the group behind. While I’m happy to finish on the podium, it’s also a little disappointing to be so far from the win when I felt like I rode really well. When I was battling with Alvaro after he ran wide, the speed he came past me on the short straight was a bit frustrating because I couldn’t even stay in his slipstream. So, a shame to be so far off the winner, but I’m satisfied with the third place.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P4
“It was a good race today. I got a fantastic start and had a bit of a battle with Tom Sykes in the beginning and, after I managed to get past him, it was a case of trying to chase down Alex in third place. I managed to close the gap and I was a little bit faster in a couple of places, but I felt like I just didn’t have the speed to put in a pass and pull away. So I sat behind him for most of the race, waiting for an opportunity in the closing stages, but he was a bit stronger on the brakes. We both had our strong points on the track, but he managed to get away to take a well-deserved podium and I’m happy to pick up the points for fourth after a strong race.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P6
“It was difficult today. I didn’t get a good start but initially I managed to come back and make up places, but then I was struggling a lot with the stability issue on the straights. It meant I couldn’t sit on the seat on the straights but instead I had to keep weight on the footrests all the time, so there was no chance to breathe on the straights like normal. We made a set-up change to make the bike a bit more stable but the compromise was that we lost some rear grip, so I had to try and gain time under braking and by carrying more corner speed, but then the traction dropped off a lot after 10 laps.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P7
“It’s been a good Saturday here in Thailand. A good performance in Superpole meant I started the race today from P4 on the second row of the grid but, unfortunately, I couldn’t stay with the second group from about the halfway point onwards. From that point it was a long and tough race but we finished P7, which is my best result so far in WorldSBK. Tomorrow will be another hard day but I think we are working in a very good direction. Maybe after qualifying fourth people were expecting a bit more, but we need to be realistic. Top eight was our goal and we achieved that so, overall, I’m happy with today.”