Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s Alex Lowes mounted a superb charge through the field in Race 2 at Imola on Sunday at Round 5 of the 2018 FIM Motul Superbike World Championship. The British rider lined up 12th on the grid and when the lights went out immediately showed podium pace and was on a charge before he ran off track. Recovering and getting straight back into his rhythm to do it all again, Lowes blazed his way to a sixth-place finish to mirror his teammate’s result from Race 1. Michael van der Mark started from the front row and was battling in the podium group when he made a small mistake and crashed out of the race on lap 9, recording his first DNF of 2018.
It was another glorious day at a hot and humid Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari with hardly a cloud in the sky and track temperatures reaching 48°C on Sunday afternoon for Race 2. It would turn out to be a case of déjà vu for the Pata Yamaha team as, for the second race in succession, one of their riders would storm his way through the field from 12th on the grid to cross the line sixth.
This time it was Lowes who lined up on the fourth row of the grid after he brought his R1 home in tenth during Race 1. The 27-year-old wasted no time in getting down to business when the race started and had blasted his way up to eighth by the end of lap 2. He was demonstrating podium pace and had closed right up to the back wheel of Tom Sykes at the end of lap 3 when he made a small mistake and missed his braking marker into the Variante Alta chicane, running wide and dropping back down to 13th.
Undeterred, Lowes immediately got his head down and resumed his charge. By lap 9, he was up to seventh place and had set his sights on the top six, while also riding as hard as he could to keep wildcard Leon Haslam, who was nipping at his heels, at bay. He battled all the way to the chequered flag, maintaining his consistent pace to cross the line in sixth and collect 10 points which, when added to the six he secured in Race 1, means he leaves Assen occupying seventh in the overall standings with 92 points, now just 21 points behind his teammate. Up next is Lowes’, and the team’s, home round at Donington Park and the 2013 British Superbike Champion cannot wait to get back to racing at his local track, also one that traditionally suits the characteristics of the Pata Yamaha R1 more than the Imola layout.
Van der Mark started Race 2 from the front row after he had pulled off an almost identical feat to Lowes in Race 1, crossing the line in sixth after lining up 12th on the grid. When Race 2 started, the 25-year-old Dutch rider got a good initial drive off the line but was having some issues in trying to get his Pata Yamaha R1 stopped for the tight chicanes due to a lack of front-end grip. Riding around this problem, he managed to stick with the group battling for the podium in the opening laps and then, as is his trademark, his pace started to improve as the laps ticked off. He recorded his fastest time on lap seven and by that stage was in fifth place and closing down Marco Melandri ahead of him.
Unfortunately, while chasing Melandri on lap 9 into Turn 18, he just could not get his R1 stopped in time and, despite his best efforts to avoid a crash, ended up making contact with Melandri and both riders went down, luckily escaping unhurt. Immediately, he made his way over to Melandri in the gravel trap to apologise and then went straight to the Italian’s garage to apologise to his team, admitting he was at fault. Disappointed to have missed out on the chance to fight for the podium and some vital championship points, van der Mark still leaves Imola happy with the progress made on his Pata Yamaha R1 and determined to bounce back at Donington Park. His first DNF of the season sees him drop to sixth in the overall standings with 113 points, just 11 points behind Xavi Forés in fifth.
After a weekend of mixed results but buoyed by the improvement shown at, traditionally, one of the toughest tracks for the R1, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team head to their home round at Donington Park in the UK on the 25th-27th May full of confidence. Check out the Race 2 results from Imola.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 6th +16.162s
“I am happy with P6 and my pace, especially considering where I started and the mistake on lap 3. Obviously, for whatever reason, yesterday the race was very difficult for me and I didn’t have the pace I had enjoyed in all the other sessions so, I was really frustrated but today was good. I felt really good early on and felt like I could go forward. I was a few places behind Michael but catching up quite quickly, but I got a little bit too deep at the chicane and made a mistake, so to get sixth with a runoff and after being 12th on the grid at a very difficult track to pass – I am quite happy. The guys did a good job with the bike, I am still not 100% comfortable on corner exit but I did my best in both races and sometimes that’s not as good as other weekends but I am looking forward to Donington now. A massive thank you to all the guys, especially Andrew and Christophe who, alongside Yamaha’s engineers, have worked so hard on the bike and the electronics. We just need to keep chipping away because there is a lot of potential.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – DNF
“I had quite a good start, especially the first part but the second phase wasn’t that good and I was struggling a bit, but then I found a good pace. Jonny and Chaz pulled away and Marco passed me and then, with Marco, we started to chase down Forés and the pace was improving. To be honest, I was struggling in the race to stop the bike as the front grip didn’t feel as good as yesterday so a few times I had a warning and ran wide. Coming down the hill into Turn 18, I was behind Marco and I couldn’t stop the bike and I dived to the inside to try and avoid hitting him but we were unlucky. I am sorry to Marco and his team to have made him crash out of his home race, we both had a good pace and could have fought for the podium, so I am sorry. Hopefully, at the next round at Donington, we can get some great results for the team’s home round.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“Both our guys had very exciting Sunday races here in Imola and showed huge promise but unfortunately for Michael, his mistake when fighting with the podium group and the collision with Marco put an end to an extremely positive performance and a very positive weekend at such a challenging circuit. Obviously, we hope that Marco is physically okay and behalf of everyone in the team we would like to apologise for ending his race. Nonetheless, Michael can leave Imola with his head held high, we have made big steps at this circuit compared to past years and the fact that he crashed when fighting for the podium shows significant progress. Alex, by his own admission, really struggled yesterday. We made some changes to the bike today and he absolutely came out swinging – his pace at the start of the race was so much faster than we expected! He was able to make very precise passes and battle his way through to the front group but unfortunately, on the entry to the Variante Alta chicane he got sucked in behind Sykes, missed his braking point and that cost us the chance to fight for the podium, which is where Sykes finished and, of course, Alex was on his back wheel at that point. From there it was a great recovery and a very strong ride. The R1 wasn’t at its best here at Imola but we have made good improvements and are very excited about getting to Donington and Brno where the more open character of the racetrack will really suit the Yamaha’s natural abilities.”