Third in World Superbike Race 1 yesterday, Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team rider Michael van der Mark went one better today, with a superlative ride to second place after a tremendous battle at the front of the field in Race 2 at Portimão. Alex Lowes took a hard-fought 11th place and more important championship points today, having not quite managed to find a confident feeling with his Yamaha YZF-R1 at the technical and demanding Portimão circuit this weekend.
Starting seventh on the grid following his third place yesterday, van der Mark settled quickly into the race before starting his push towards the front on the third of 20 laps. The 25-year-old eventually forced his way through to fourth, and then closed on the podium group by mid-race distance.
With eight laps to go van der Mark took advantage of an attack by Marco Melandri on Chaz Davies and made an incredible pass on both on the inside exiting turn one. The Pata Yamaha rider then made a concerted effort to chase down championship and race leader Jonathan Rea, narrowing the gap to less than half a second, but finally the gap proved insurmountable in the laps remaining. Van der Mark took the chequered flag in second place to secure his ninth podium finish of the season and maintains third in the championship standings with 284 points, but now just 20 points behind second-placed Davies with six races remaining.
The Portimão weekend proved a difficult one for Lowes who, despite his and the team’s best efforts, never really found the confidence in his Yamaha YZF-R1 that his fast and aggressive riding style demands. A technical issue in yesterday’s race meant that the 28-year-old started from the fifth row of the grid today, with the result that he was held up by traffic in the early laps. Once clear of the traffic Lowes rode an intelligent race to a points scoring finish in 11th place. The Pata Yamaha rider was disappointed with the result, but remains confident of improvement next time out in Magny Cours.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 2nd + 1.189
“I didn’t get the best of starts, but I stayed calm because I knew the grip levels would be low with the track temperature going up a lot. We’d changed the bike a little bit to compensate for this and it felt quite good from the start. Step-by-step I made my way through to the front and I was able to run pretty much the same pace as Johnny, Chaz and Marco. But then Marco and Chaz got into a battle with each other and I was able to take advantage of them both running wide out of turn one to pass them for second place. I tried to catch Johnny, but he just had a little bit more pace than me in the closing stages of the race. Anyway, another podium is an amazing way to end what has been a great weekend for me and my team, and we will keep pushing next time in France.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 11th + 20.244
“Overall it’s been a tough weekend here in Portimão. I just haven’t been able to dial in the bike to give me the feeling I needed, and I was losing time on corner exit in both races here. The team and Yamaha’s engineers worked tirelessly to find a solution, but we were just missing that little bit of feeling that would have made all the difference. It would have been easy to push too hard to compensate, so at least I’m happy to be leaving here with points from both races. We have some work to do now, but I’m confident we’ll be back where we should be in Magny-Cours.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK – Team Principal
“An exciting Race 2 here at Portimão and, in my opinion, Michael’s best performance of the season so far. Today he went up against the best riders in the championship, all performing very strongly. Michael pushed Jonathan to the very end, having come through from seventh position at the end of lap one in an aggressive but controlled, impressive manner. Congratulations, not only to Michael but also to his crew, for finding progressively better technical solutions and putting the best YZF-R1 possible out on circuit today. Unfortunately Alex had another challenging race. Of course, starting 13th on the grid didn’t help, but it’s been a complicated weekend and we didn’t find the solutions today to allow Alex to ride with his normal aggressive confidence and flowing style. Whilst they are always very close in outright performance, our two riders do have very different riding styles in certain areas and we need to focus on the solutions needed to get Alex more comfortable in the areas he struggled with today.”