The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team put in an encouraging performance on Sunday at Phillip Island, the opening round of the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship, with both riders on podium pace in an enthralling Race 2. Alex Lowes fought in the leading group throughout the incredibly entertaining 22-lap flag-to-flag race, before crossing the line in fifth, a mere 2.474s behind the race winner. His teammate Michael van der Mark was also in the podium hunt during the first part of the race but suffered from a drop in grip levels after his pit stop, battling hard to finish just half a second behind his teammate in seventh.
After a number of riders suffered from tyre degradation issues in Race 1, Sunday’s Race 2 was changed to a flag-to-flag format, with riders allowed to do a maximum of 12 laps on one rear tyre before they would have to make a mandatory pit stop. Lowes had finished Race 1 in a battling sixth and therefore he lined up in third on the grid for Sunday’s race. When the lights went out, the 27-year-old British rider did not have the best of starts and dropped down to ninth in the opening laps but just like in Race 1, he maturely waited for the feeling with his Pata Yamaha R1 to come to him, and as the race progressed he started to charge through the field. On lap five he was the quickest man on track and was chasing down the podium battle as he made his way up into eighth before the mandatory pit stops. Timing his pit stop to perfection, Lowes emerged as one of the big winners from the chaos and was fighting in the leading group. Once again he was involved in an excellent battle with his teammate – following on from their superb duel during Race 1 – and after passing van der Mark, Lowes rode hard in an attempt to close down the leaders towards the end of the race before crossing the line in fifth, just 2.474s behind the eventual race winner. This result sees Lowes claim 11 championship points to add to the ten he picked up on Saturday, meaning he leaves Phillip Island fifth in the overall standings with 21 points.
Van der Mark fought bravely to bring his Pata Yamaha R1 home in ninth place during Race 1 after suffering from severe rear tyre problems, which meant the 25-year-old Dutch rider would start Sunday’s Race 2 from sixth on the grid. After a lightning start, he went on a stunning charge, passing rider after rider on his way up to third by lap 3. Battling for the podium, he came in to make his mandatory pit stop from fourth place on lap 10, one lap before his teammate Lowes. After a perfect wheel change, unfortunately he didn’t quite have the same feeling with the tyres and, try as he might, he could not match his earlier rhythm. Determined to collect as many championship points as possible, he fought valiantly to bring his Pata Yamaha R1 home in seventh. Securing nine points in Race 2, van der Mark now occupies eighth in the championship standings with 16 points heading into Round 2.
After an encouraging opening race weekend of the season, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team now move onto Round 2 of the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship at the Chang International circuit in Thailand on the 23rd-25th March. Check out the full Race 2 results.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 5th +2.474s
“The second race was a lot better! Honestly, the bike was the best it had felt all week, which is promising to see how much progress we can make on a race weekend. After the pit stops, I felt really strong and thought I could challenge for the podium but I just had a couple of issues holding me back a little bit, which is unfortunate but that is racing. I felt really strong on the bike and I enjoyed the close nature of the racing. The pit stops did not make it easy but to get through the first round after struggling to feel comfortable during what has actually been quite a tough week for me, these results are not the end of the world. I am reasonably happy but I can’ t be completely satisfied with fifth and sixth-place finishes as I want to be fighting for podiums and winning races, which is what we will try and do in Thailand.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 7th – +3.098s
“It was a really interesting race! I had quite a good start and, to be honest, I really enjoyed the first ten laps. It was a massive battle for the podium and was a really good race. We made a perfect pit stop, but I just didn’t have the same feeling or grip levels afterwards and I could not keep up with the leaders. It is a big shame as I felt really strong and was matching the guy’s in front lap times before the pit stop. I felt I could have battled for the podium, but anyway, it is important to take some points. It has been a really strange weekend with all the tyre issues, so I am looking forward to Thailand and hopefully there we can show our full potential.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“The enforced flag-to-flag procedure put a lot of pressure on all the teams and riders for today’s Race 2 but the result was an extremely exciting, closely fought battle throughout the whole 22 laps. Because tyre life – which is normally the defining point of the race result – wasn’t an issue, the top riders were lapping at qualifying pace for the whole distance, which was amazing for everybody to watch. I am very proud of the team, who did two seamless pit stops and had the riders out at exactly the right time to re-join the battle for the podium. The final result for Alex in fifth is solid, yet we all feel in the garage – and he rightly believes – that he could have been in the hunt for the win on another day. His speed was right up there to fight for the victory but we will take the solid points. Michael was also involved in the heated battle for the podium. He forced his way forward in the first part of the race and looked a serious podium contender like his teammate. Unfortunately, the second rear tyre didn’t seem to offer quite the same level of grip consistency as the first one, and whilst finishing any race just 3s from the winner is an extremely good showing, Michael was disappointed with seventh position. It has been a solid start to the championship. It was not quite the results we were hoping for here at Phillip Island but there are a lot of very, very encouraging signs, particularly today, and we are looking forward to heading to Thailand for Round 2 soon.”