The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team enjoyed a solid opening to Round 11 of the FIM World Superbike Championship in France today. After a frustrating weekend last time out in Portimão, Alex Lowes bounced back strongly in Magny-Cours, posting his fastest lap in the final free practice to end the day third on the timesheet. Michael van der Mark, twice a podium finisher in Portimão, also made a significant improvement to his lap time in the final session to finish the opening day in fifth position.
Lowes and van der Mark were greeted by unseasonably warm and sunny weather as they rolled out at Magny-Cours for the first of three free practice sessions this morning. The initial focus for both was on adapting the set up of their Yamaha YZF-R1 machines to suit the Magny-Cours circuit, which is very different in both layout and character to Portimão.
Lowes and his crew came prepared for the challenge of Magny-Cours, with a structured plan to ensure the 28-year-old Briton was quickly up to speed and able to rediscover the confidence in his YZF-R1 that was lacking in Portugal. After making solid progress all day, including completing a fast and consistent race run, Lowes was able to up his pace further in the final session to end the day third on the timesheet and to secure automatic entry to Superpole 2.
Van der Mark’s progress today was similar to that of Lowes, as he worked with his crew to find the optimal set up on his Yamaha YZF-R1 for the 4.411km Magny-Cours circuit. The 25-year-old waited until the final moments of free practice this afternoon before posting his fastest time of the day to finish fifth, ensuring his place alongside his Pata Yamaha teammate in Superpole 2.
Both Pata Yamaha riders are confident of challenging for a front row grid position for tomorrow’s 20-lap Race 1 when they take to the track for qualifying, which gets underway at 11.55 local time.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – P3- 1:37.489
“A good way to start the weekend here in Magny-Cours. I still want to improve my pace over the long runs by two or three tenths. We didn’t have the ideal setting in the bike when we did the long run today, but it was good to get it in, get some laps to get used to the track and I feel quite good. There are a few areas where we need to work to improve tomorrow, especially in the first sector where I’m losing time, but the feeling is positive. Now I need to keep my head down, stay relaxed and see if we can fight for the podium tomorrow.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – P5- 1:37.4625
“We had a really positive start to the weekend today. This morning we started with the bike set up exactly as it finished the Portimão race, so we knew we were going to have to make some changes. The good thing was that every change we made to the set up was a step in the right direction and every session we went quicker. At the end of the final session it was getting a little bit close and I was a little bit on the limit, but I managed to improve my lap time and I’m happy to have secured a place in Superpole 2 and to have closed the gap significantly to the top of the timesheet. I’m happy with the feeling on the bike, but there are still some small improvements to be found tomorrow that will hopefully give us just a little more pace.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – Team Principal
“It’s a very British thing to always be talking about the weather but we’ve been coming to Magny-Cours for many years and to be sheltering from the sunshine, rather than the wind and rain, is a very pleasant change. It’s been a really solid day and, after a challenging event in Portimão, it’s excellent to see Alex and his team bounce back with a very consistent days’ work, sticking to a constructive plan and finishing it off with a great lap time at the end of FP3. For Michael, it is very much situation normal; lots of laps on old tyres, very clear feedback and it was also encouraging that the improvement on new tyres was quite significant, which gives us good hope for a good qualifying position tomorrow. Apart from the top two guys on the timesheet, who look like they have a reasonable step and an advantage at the moment, it’s extremely tight throughout the rest of the field, so we’ll be looking to maximise everything that the riders and the R1 can give us for tomorrow and push for the podium.”