The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team put in maximum effort in Race 2 at Aragon for Round 3 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship on Sunday. Alex Lowes started from fourth on the grid and was involved in the podium battle but found himself suffering from a lack of grip on corner exit. Despite this, he rode to his full potential and enjoyed a superb battle once more with his teammate Michael van der Mark in the latter stages of the race, emerging the victor of the duel to cross the line in fourth place. Van der Mark had a blistering start from the middle of the front row and led across the line after the first lap. He, unfortunately, also had a slight issue with his R1 and battled as hard as he could despite not having a great feeling with the front end, enjoying the excellent fight with his teammate in the last few laps before finishing the race in fifth.
As has been the theme for most of the 2018 season so far, there was almost nothing to separate the Pata Yamaha riders all weekend, with them matching each other’s time exactly in Friday’s free practice. Then there was only 0.01s between them in Saturday’s qualifying before they crossed the line in Race 1 within 1.053s of each other after 17 laps of racing.
Lowes finished Saturday’s Race 1 in a battling seventh place despite not being 100% comfortable with the feeling with his bike, meaning he would start Race 2 from the middle of the second row. He finished Sunday morning’s Warm Up in third as the Pata Yamaha team tried to recreate the confidence he had with his R1 at the last round in Buriram but when the lights went out for Race 2, he did not have the drive he needed coming out of the corners. The 27-year-old British rider showed incredible determination and maturity to ride around this issue as, after dropping down to seventh in the early laps, he started to fight back and pick off the riders in front of him one by one.
By lap 8 he had passed his teammate van der Mark for fifth place but, as has been the case in nearly every race so far this season, the two would enjoy an excellent battle right to the line. As the race went on, the duel between the teammates became ever more sensational, and on the last lap, they swapped places a number of times before Lowes managed to power to the chequered flag ahead of his teammate to secure fourth place. Disappointed to not have the pace for the podium despite his best efforts, Lowes is determined to bounce back in Assen. The 13 points he collected sees him fifth in the championship standings with 70 points from the first six races.
Van der Mark lined up in the middle of the front row for Race 2 after he rode to a solid fifth in Saturday’s Race 1. Sixth in Sunday morning’s Warm Up, he was confident heading into Race 2 and this showed as he enjoyed an excellent start, taking the lead almost immediately. Sadly, this was to be short-lived as the 25-year-old Dutch rider just did not have the same feeling with the front end of his Pata Yamaha R1 as expected. Pushing hard at the front, he was made to run a bit wide after there was contact as Melandri passed him for the lead, but recovered superbly, although he just did not quite have the pace to keep the chasing riders at bay.
He battled hard, but could not hold them off and dropped down to sixth as he tried to work out a way to deal with his issue and when his teammate Lowes came past on lap 8, he responded in style. Latching on to Lowes back wheel, the two Pata Yamaha riders started to hunt down Michael Ruben Rinaldi in fourth. They both blasted past the Italian and van der Mark then tried to break away from Lowes but to no avail. Enjoying an excellent scrap, Lowes signalled his intent by making a move into Turn 1 on a final lap that saw them pass each other a number of times. In a dramatic finish, he just lost out to his teammate in the final few corners, crossing the line in fifth 0.436s behind Lowes to collect 11 championship points. He is now sixth in the overall standings with 67 points, just three behind his teammate Lowes, and up next is van der Mark’s home round at Assen, a circuit he loves racing at in front of the passionate Dutch fans.
Despite a tricky weekend at times, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team head to Round 4 of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship at the TT Circuit Assen on the 20th-22nd of April confident they will be back fighting for the podium. Check out the full Race 2 results.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 4th +10.251s
“The race was really tough for me! I struggled from the start and I was simply not fast enough. I said it yesterday, but today was the same, in as much as it was a case of just doing the best I can. I understood after 2 or 3 laps that I did not have the pace to fight for the victory so my target was to finish the rest of the race in the best position possible, make no mistakes, and ride as fast as I could till the end. That is, obviously, what you should do in every race but normally you have a little bit in reserve for when you want to pass people. To be honest, I didn’t really worry about anyone else and just tried to do the best I could. I realised Michael was struggling with the front near the end of the race and I managed to get past him after a nice little battle but, like I said, it was too far from the lead. It is not too important to me to finish in front of him when we are ten seconds from the front. Hopefully, next week in Assen, Michael’s home race, we want to be battling like that for the win!”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 5th +10.687s
“I had quite a good start and then I took the lead in the first few corners but, to be honest, after the first few laps I didn’t feel comfortable with the front-end of my R1 and this was an issue for the whole race. I was leading the field but I felt too slow and one but one they passed me. I tried to stay with the front guys and tried everything I could but, in the end, I was riding right on the limit and then I missed a gear and missed quite a lot of time there as well. Towards the end of the race, I had another excellent battle with Alex which I really enjoyed, but to be fourth and fifth and 10 seconds behind the leaders is not where we have to be. Hopefully, for Assen, we can find a solution to the problem and make some good progress at my home race!”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“Everybody in the team did their best to give Alex and Michael an R1 that was capable of challenging for the podium today but, whilst we did take some steps forward, unfortunately, the characteristic of the race in terms of not having the traction and corner-exit performance the guys needed was quite clear as the race developed. This was, perhaps, slightly unexpected, in that one of the very strong points of the Pata Yamaha R1 has been its consistency to the end of the race. The focus will be to regenerate that race durability performance. Honestly, I have no complaints whatsoever with the efforts or performance of the team, particularly both riders who rode really hard but also very maturely to maximise the results they could achieve. If a bad pair of races as, frankly, these two here in Aragon have been, can result in a decent points haul and a potentially closable gap to the winner then we have to take the positives from that and look forward with enthusiasm to Assen.”