The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team put in a spirited performance despite suffering from tyre degradation problems in Race 1 at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship, at an overcast and windy Phillip Island. Alex Lowes started from the front of the second row and was involved in a number of superb duels during the race, battling hard despite a lack of grip towards the closing stages, before crossing the line in sixth position. One of the riders he fought with was his teammate Michael van der Mark, who had enjoyed a good start and was battling for the podium before he also suffered from severe tyre problems in the latter stages of the race, fighting to defend every position before finishing in ninth.
After missing crucial dry track time on Friday, Lowes bounced back after making some changes to his setup and improved on Saturday morning to finish FP4 in fourth position. The 27-year-old British rider then put in a stunning final lap in SP2 to secure fourth on the grid for Race 1, setting a 1:30.767, despite a small crash earlier in the session at Turn 4. Starting from the front of the second row, Lowes took it steady at the beginning of the race as he didn’t have the best feeling with his tyres, taking his time to work into a rhythm before starting to make his way back through the field from ninth. After passing a couple of riders, he closed the gap to his teammate in front and the two enjoyed an excellent scrap for sixth, overtaking each other a number of times before Lowes managed to make a move stick and attempted to hunt down the riders ahead. Managing his tyres as best he could for the latter stages of the race, Lowes was closing the gap rapidly to Jonathan Rea in front of him when he just ran out of laps, crossing the line in sixth to secure ten championship points, with the result meaning Lowes will start Sunday’s Race 2 from the front row.
Seventh overall after Friday’s practice, van der Mark used to FP4 to focus on his race pace in the tricky conditions that greeted the riders at Phillip Island on Saturday. He qualified for Race 1 in the middle of the third row after setting a 1:31.240 on his first flying run, which was good enough to secure eighth on the grid. When the lights went out the 25-year-old Dutch rider enjoyed a trademark lightning start but made a small mistake at Turn 4 in the early laps and lost crucial time to the riders at the front. Fighting back through the pack, he was on a charge and had battled his way up to fifth before he started to suffer from severe rear tyre problems towards the end of the race. Unable to maintain his lap times, he bravely continued to scrap for every position – including the memorable battle with his teammate – before bringing his Pata Yamaha R1 home in ninth to collect six championship points, which means van der Mark will line up for Sunday’s Race 2 on the second row.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action at the opening round of the WorldSBK Championship on Sunday at 10.30 am local time at Phillip Island for Warm Up, with Race 2 scheduled for 3 pm. Due to the issues suffered by a number of riders during Saturday’s race, Race Direction has announced that if Sunday’s 22-lap Race 2 is declared dry, it will follow the flag-to-flag format, with enforced pit stops and riders not allowed to do more than 12 laps on one rear tyre. Check out the full Race 1 results.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 6th +17.028s
“It has been a tough week so far, as I’ve not really been 100% confident with the feeling so far. The race wasn’t easy. I didn’t get a very good start and I was trying my best to just stay with the group, as I realised early on I was having some difficulties with my tyres. I tried to really look after them as much as I could, to be able to come strong in the latter stages, but even with riding quite conservatively the tyres felt very bad at the end of the race. We managed to get sixth place and with the changes in place for Race 2, we will try and learn from today to see if we can do a better job in the race tomorrow!”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 9th +27.430s
“I had a quite a good start from eighth on the grid but then made a mistake into Turn 4 and lost some time. I fought back through the pack and was feeling really strong, passing people, and I was up to fifth and closing the leading down group when suddenly, after 15 laps, I just had no rear grip anymore. It was a big struggle towards the end. We don’t know why we struggled with the tyre, but it seems as though a number of riders had issues, so it is good they have made the changes for tomorrow’s race and I am confident I have the pace to fight at the front!”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“It was a challenging Race 1 here today at Phillip Island for Round 1 of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship. Both Alex and Michael rode very hard and showed that they had the outright pace in certain parts of the race to be podium finishers, but unfortunately the tyre durability was inconsistent throughout the field of riders and Michael suffered particularly badly. Whilst Alex’s tyre was visually in better condition, the wear was also too much to be able to ride competitively in the last five or six laps. In that overall situation, it was good that the R1 and both riders showed such good speed. They certainly both showed really good fighting spirit! There will are some significant changes to the race format tomorrow, which it is difficult to know whether that will work for or against the Pata Yamaha team but, in any case, it will be the same for everybody and we will be as well prepared as we possibly can. We will do our best to improve the results from today.”