The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team had a mixed day under the scorching sun at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday during Race 1 for round eight of the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. Michael van der Mark fought his way from 13th on the grid to secure an eighth-place finish despite track temperatures of almost 60°C and suffering from a lack of grip. His teammate Alex Lowes qualified in eighth but unfortunately crashed out of the race on lap 7 at Turn 5, although he still retains fifth place in the championship standings.
Van der Mark had to contest SP1 for only the second time this season on Saturday morning, but despite his best efforts, he finished the session in third, missing out on making it through to SP2 for the first time since he joined the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, by just two-hundredths of a second. Starting from 13th on the grid, he immediately made up a number of places when the lights went out at Laguna Seca. Unfortunately, at Turn 2 Leon Camier ran wide and van der Mark had nowhere to go and was forced wide, dropping back to 12th. The 24-year-old Dutch rider then got his head down, and despite not feeling fully confident with his R1 on corner entry and suffering from a lack of grip, he found a steady rhythm and started to make his way through the pack.
After 11 laps, he had made his way up to tenth place and started to close the gap the three riders ahead of him. By lap 14 he became involved in an excellent four-way battle for seventh and as the laps ticked down he first passed Lorenzo Savadori for ninth, then made an excellent move on Leandro Mercado for 8th with 5 laps remaining. He set his sights on trying to close down the gap to Jordi Torres in seventh but he ran out of laps and crossed the line in eighth to secure eight vital championship points. The new grid rules for 2017 mean that he will start Sunday’s Race 2 from the middle of the second row in fifth place, with Van der Mark keen to build on his Race 1 performance. This result sees him remain sixth in the championship standings, now with 123 points, but means he has closed the gap to his teammate Lowes in fifth to just 18 points.
His teammate Lowes experienced a day of ups and downs at Laguna Seca on Saturday after ending Friday in eighth overall and making it directly through to SP2. In the 15-minute qualifying session, the 26-year-old British rider improved on his best time from free practice by almost a second to qualify on the middle of the third row in eighth for the race. When the lights went out Lowes, like many riders, struggled for grip in the extreme heat and found himself in 11th after the first few corners, just ahead of his teammate van der Mark. Determined to make up the lost ground he pushed hard on his R1 and was closing down the group in front when he lost the front at Turn 5 on lap 7 without any prior warning and crashed out of the race. Lowes was luckily unhurt after the fast crash and left bemused as to the cause, but is determined to bounce back in Sunday’s Race 2. Due to the grid rules for 2017, Lowes will start Sunday’s 25-lap Race 2 from the middle of the fourth row in 11th.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team are back in action on Sunday at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Warm up at 10:30am and Race 2 scheduled to start at 14:00pm local time.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 8th +32.933s
“I had a good start from 13th on the grid but then Camier went wide and I was on the outside so I lost a number of places in Turn 2. After that, I immediately struggled with the turning of the bike and I pushed really hard and found the limit, which was safe but so much slower than this morning. I was not happy with this pace but towards the end, I was closing on the group in front of me and I managed to overtake two of them. I think eighth was the maximum possible today and we need to find something to allow us to be closer to the front for tomorrow. At the moment, the gap to the winner at this track is too much. Tomorrow it will be good to start from the second row with the fast guys and hopefully, we can make a step for Race 2 and be a lot quicker.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – DNF
“Today was very tough. I qualified in eighth and felt like we made a step forward in terms of race pace in SP2 as I improved by almost a second from practice. In the race, I didn’t have the feeling I expected with the bike. I pushed as hard as I could, but on lap 7, while trying to close down the guys ahead of me I lost the front at Turn 5. I am not sure what exactly happened, but I am okay. It was frustrating as I had no warning, so we will look at the data tonight to allow us to come out fighting for Race 2 tomorrow.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“Apart from the podium finishers who had something completely different in terms of performance to the rest of the field, it looked like a really tough race out there for everybody in extreme heat and on a very greasy track. Michael did well from his grid position to stay patient and keep working hard to push his way up to eighth position. From where we were yesterday and after qualifying we really couldn’t expect more. We now have the data from today to work on, understand what we can to do improve the front grip of the bike, which was the biggest restriction over race distance, and see if we can improve tomorrow. The second-row start will help as it is a tough place to pass here, so we will see what Michael can achieve tomorrow. We are desperately disappointed for Alex who has worked hard this weekend in every session and given the best possible feedback, as he always does. The team made a reasonably big step in the settings for the race in the search for more performance and it’s possible that Alex hadn’t had time to really understand the chassis balance and the grip available. Unfortunately, he lost the front on the brakes into Turn 5. This makes the grid position for Alex really tough tomorrow but he always bounces back from adversity well and we will approach tomorrow with a positive mindset and see what we can achieve.”