The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team fought hard in the hot and humid conditions at the Chang International Circuit during Race 1 on Saturday for Round 2 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship in Thailand. Alex Lowes qualified in sixth position but did not have a great start to the race, falling down to tenth place before fighting back hard to cross the line in a strong fifth position after storming through the field. His teammate Michael van der Mark got a solid start from tenth on the grid before enjoying another superb battle with his teammate and the front group, eventually finishing in seventh after he suffered from a lack of grip towards the end of the race.
After ending Friday in tenth overall, Lowes clearly meant business on Saturday in Buriram and got straight to work in FP4, setting a rapid 1:33.440 to top the morning session. When SP2 rolled around the 27-year-old British rider once again showed excellent pace and improved to a 1:33.033 to secure sixth on the grid after an incredibly close session. Despite being just 0.222s off the man on pole, Lowes would start Race 1 from the second row in sixth on the grid, knowing he had the pace to battle at the front. Unfortunately, he struggled with corner entry at the start of the race and just could not quite match the pace of the riders at the front, dropping down to 10th by the end of lap 2. Gradually, Lowes’ feeling with his Pata Yamaha R1 started to improve and he started to charge his way through the field.
On lap eight he was up to eighth position and was the quickest man on track as he hunted down his teammate van der Mark. The two enjoyed another trademark battle for sixth before Lowes got past on lap 14 and set his sights on hunting down Tom Sykes ahead of him. Closing a gap of a second, he was on the back wheel of Sykes by lap 17 and after a short scrap with his compatriot, Lowes made it past on lap 19 with a superb move to secure fifth place by the line and complete an excellent comeback. The 2013 British Superbike Champion secured 11 points and is now seventh overall in the championship standings with 32 points. Feeling happy with his pace after the first few laps, Lowes is now looking forward to starting Sunday’s Race 2 from the front row of the grid in second.
Van der Mark ended Friday’s practice in seventh overall and, like his teammate, he impressed in the morning’s FP4 session to finish in fifth with a 1:33.643. The 25-year-old Dutch rider showed good improvement in SP2 and qualified for Race 1 at the head of the fourth row in tenth after shaving another couple of tenths off his best time to set a 1:33.373. When the lights went out for Race 1, the 2014 WorldSSP Champion got a solid start but did not quite have the same sensation with his R1 under braking as he had enjoyed throughout the weekend. Focusing on trying to find a good rhythm, he showed incredible consistency throughout the race, with every lap apart from the first in the low to mid 1:34’s.
Fighting his way through the pack, he was up to seventh by lap six and then passed Marco Melandri for sixth on lap ten, only to find himself in another stunning scrap with his teammate Lowes. Passing each other a number of times, the two Pata Yamaha riders put on a show for the passionate Thai fans before van der Mark’s grip levels started to fade at the end of the race. Battling hard, he tried to keep with Lowes as best he could and chase down the riders in front but, unfortunately, he could not make any inroads into the gap to Sykes ahead. Crossing the line in a creditable seventh position, van der Mark secured nine championship points which sees him eighth in the overall standings with 25 points. He will start Sunday’s Race 2 from fourth on the grid and, he is confident if he can make some small improvements to his Pata Yamaha R1 he will have the race pace to battle for the podium.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action at the Chang International Circuit at 11:30 am local time on Sunday in Buriram for Warm Up, with the 20-lap Race 2 scheduled to start at 4 pm. Check out the full Race 1 results from Thailand.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 5th +7.258s
“To be honest, at Phillip Island I was slow at the start of the race and it was something I wanted to improve on here. It is normally one of my strong points, that I can get myself into a good position at the start, but at the minute I can’t quite do that. I am not sure if it is a combination of me pushing too hard and the bike not quite working as well during the early laps but anyway, overall it was a good race. It was great to see everyone so close together and I was enjoying the close racing and some good passes. I think we can be quite happy with the result we got from where we were at the start, I feel I did the best I could in that situation but honestly, I expect to do a bit better than that. We will try again tomorrow!”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 7th +8.500s
“I had to start from 10th on the grid and had quite a good start, but nothing special. To be honest, right from when the lights went out I was struggling under braking and with my grip levels and so it was quite difficult to race. I managed to be quite consistent, so I was really happy with that and we knew it was going to be a really tight race, so we had to be very consistent and not make any mistakes. I started to close the gap to the guys in front of me step by step and I had another great battle with Alex but towards the end, unfortunately, I started to struggle really badly under braking and I could not follow him anymore. This gives us something to work on for tomorrow and let’s see what we can do in the race from P4 on the grid!”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“It was a very positive, yet, in some ways frustrating first race here at Buriram. As we saw at Phillip Island, the extremely close racing has been repeated here in Thailand but, unfortunately, neither Alex nor Michael were able to maximise track position in the early laps and if you are running in tenth position, however fast you are able to go with a clear track in front of you, it is very difficult to maintain the lap times of the leaders when you have to fight your way through – especially with everyone so closely matched in the first half of the race. Alex recovered well from a really difficult situation that saw him drop to tenth and fully deserved his fifth position. He wanted more but he has got his chance to put himself in a better place to achieve more with a front-row start tomorrow and we are looking forward to that. Michael, as always, was very similar to Alex in pace, just didn’t have quite as much left in the bike to fight in the last five laps. There are some clear targets for both the riders to improve the settings of the R1 for tomorrow, but we cannot be disappointed with the potential of the performance and we are looking forward to racing tomorrow.”