The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team riders Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark returned to WorldSBK action this week after the long summer break, with a productive two-day test at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão.
A high-speed rollercoaster of a track, the 4.6km Portimão circuit combines a technical mix of fast and slow corners with huge changes in elevation, making it one of the most demanding tracks on the WorldSBK calendar and ideal for testing.
Although both riders were part of the team that secured Yamaha their third successive victory at the prestigious 8 Hours of Suzuka race back in July, neither had turned a wheel on track since.
The first runs for Lowes and van der Mark on the opening day in Portimão were therefore dedicated to reacquainting themselves with their WorldSBK specification Yamaha YZF-R1 race bikes, which they hadn’t ridden since the Misano race more than six weeks ago.
The two riders were quickly back up to speed and their focus then turned to testing proper, with each rider completing an extensive test program over the course of the two days. The main focus for both was on refining set up and evaluating suspension and geometry changes that would be too time consuming to test during a race weekend.
Lowes and van der Mark also evaluated upgraded suspension components from Öhlins and new chassis parts from Yamaha as part of the on-going development program for 2019, both with positive results. Engineers from Yamaha were also on hand during the two-day test, assisting the team with the development of new electronic strategies.
Portimão is the venue for the next round of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship, so the two-day test also provided Lowes and van der Mark with the ideal opportunity to fine tune the set up of their Yamaha YZF-R1 machines in conditions very similar to those they’ll experience when they return for the race in three weeks’ time.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 1:42.140
“The main focus during these two days in Portimão was working to find a good set up on the bike for the new front tyre that Pirelli brought to the last race in Misano. I didn’t have the same feeling as the other guys when we switched to the new tyre, so we’ve been working on a solution for that. We’ve also tried many different options on the bike, which is what testing is all about, and that confirmed once again our current base setting. On top of that we’ve had some very positive new hardware from Yamaha to evaluate as part of the development program for 2019 and also some upgraded components from Öhlins. Normally we test here in Portimão in the winter when the temperatures are cooler and there is a lot more grip, so it was good to get the chance to test again when the track temperature is closer to what we can expect when we return next month for the race. We’ve made some small improvements, maybe not quite as big a step as I was hoping for, but overall it’s been a positive test so thanks to Yamaha and all the team for their efforts.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 1:42.182
“It’s been a long summer break so the first priority was to get back up to speed and get reacquainted with the WorldSBK spec YZF-R1, so we started by confirming the set ups from the last race and the test here in the winter before making any changes to the bike. After that we tried quite a few small things, mainly with the suspension, that we don’t have time to test during a race weekend. When you test so many different options there are always positives and negatives, but the most important thing is to collect the data that can then be analysed by the engineers as part of the development process, both for the coming races and for the future. It’s always good to be back on the bike and after such a positive test here in Portimão I’m now looking forward to finishing the season as strongly as possible.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – Team Principal
“It’s nice to be back at work, particularly at such a spectacular track as Portimão. Yamaha’s engineers have been very busy over the summer break preparing for this test and the important last four races of the season, as well as considering our next steps towards our 2019 performance. Alex and Michael have also been very busy with the small matter of winning the 8 Hours of Suzuka for Yamaha and, aside from the technical developments, it’s been very important to get them both back onto the WorldSBK specification YZF-R1 after having done so many kilometres aboard the Yamaha factory machine in Japan. The test has been as we usually expect; some positives, some negatives and a few challenges to overcome but, in general, we’ve been able to make some excellent progress that will help the riders be faster for the remainder of this season and going forward into 2019.”