The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team delivered a stellar performance in Race 2 on Sunday at Magny Cours, round 11 of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship. Alex Lowes followed up his superb ride to fifth in the wet Race 1, by charging to an incredible second-place finish to record his third podium of 2017. His teammate Michael van der Mark also put on a brilliant show of riding after an excellent fight with Lowes to secure third place and record the Pata Yamaha team’s first double podium in WorldSBK.
After Lowes’ brave ride to fifth in the treacherous wet Race 1 conditions, the 27-year-old lined up in the middle of the front row for Sunday’s Race 2. Drops of rain started to fall just before the race got underway but this had no effect on Lowes. When the lights went out he got the holeshot into Turn 1 and took the lead. Battling with his teammate at the front in the opening stages, Lowes managed to open a 0.4s gap and led the way until the fourth lap when Chaz Davies passed him, as the rain became heavier. As Lowes settled into a rhythm and began assessing the grip levels in the tricky conditions, he was passed by Leon Camier and dropped down to third, although this was to be short-lived as Camier was forced to retire on lap 10, with Lowes retaking second place. By this point, his gap to Chaz Davies in the lead was over 5 seconds, but the 2013 British Superbike Champion set his sights on closing the gap, putting together an amazing run of seven consecutive laps in the low 1:39s or better, and with two laps to go he was less than three seconds behind the leader.
His late race pace was sensational but with the rain getting heavier and the grip levels dropping, he maturely realised that the race win was not on the cards and brought his Pata Yamaha R1 home in second, just 3.006s behind Davies. It was the third time Lowes has stood on the podium in 2017, to add to his second-place finish at Misano and third at his home round in Donnington, and equalled his best WorldSBK result despite the fact he was still feeling the after effects from his Race 2 highside in Portimao. The 20 points he secured means the British rider remains fifth in the championship standings but now has 200 points with two rounds remaining in the season.
Van der Mark had shown incredible fortitude in Saturday’s Race 1, remounting after a crash and storming through the field from last to secure ninth place after a brilliant comeback. It got even better in Sunday’s Race 2 as the 24-year-old, lining up in sixth on the grid, got an amazing start, riding around the outside of a number of riders through the first two corners to blast to the front of the field and do battle with his teammate for the lead. He crossed the line after the first lap in third, just behind Lowes, but with the conditions worsening, he decided to focus on finding his own race pace. He dropped to fourth briefly as he built his confidence on the slippery track but as the race progressed the Dutch rider’s pace improved dramatically and he was back in third by lap ten and starting to close the one-second gap to his teammate Lowes in second.
Just like his teammate, he put together an incredible sequence of laps in the low 1:39s, showing brilliant consistency and by lap 15 he was right on the back wheel of Lowes, battling for second and chasing down Davies in the lead. Then, as the rain got heavier and track conditions worsened he had a couple of big moments and, unfortunately, he just did not have the grip left in his tyres to push any harder. Maintaining his pace right to the end, van der Mark crossed the line in third, just 1.550s behind his teammate, to record his second rostrum in the last three races – after his second-place finish in Race 2 at Portimao – and secure the Pata Yamaha team’s first ever double podium in WorldSBK. The 16 points he received now sees the 2014 World Supersport Champion sixth in the overall standings with 189 points, just 11 behind his teammate Lowes.
This superb performance by the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team over a challenging weekend, with ever-changing track conditions, demonstrates the progress of the project since Yamaha’s return to the WorldSBK championship in 2016. They now head to round 12 of the 2017 FM Superbike World Championship in Jerez on the 20th-22nd of October full of confidence and ready to fight for more podiums. Check out the Race 2 results from Magny-Cours.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 2nd +3.006s
“Honestly, this weekend has been slightly strange with the different weather conditions yesterday and then today with just that little bit of rain and difficult grip levels. I think it is a perfect example of how well the Pata Yamaha Team are working because, although we are still looking to close the gap to Kawasaki and Ducati in terms of out-and-out performance, whenever there is a chance to take advantage of a ‘different’ situation, we have been there. It is a fantastic day for the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team! I am really happy to share the podium with Michael because, like I said, the team have been performing so well and I am looking forward to the rest of the season now! I try to do the best I can in every race and my goal is to try and challenge these guys every week, that is the target and what Yamaha employ me to do. I think if I take a step back, I can be quite happy overall with the season up to now, but as a rider, you always want more and there are some events where more could have been achieved. I still feel that there is still plenty more to come from myself and the R1 and we will keep working hard to improve!”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 3rd +4.556s
“It is my second podium of the season and I am so happy! Yesterday in the first race I was a bit unlucky but I scored some points. Today it was good to start from sixth on the grid for Race 2. I had a really good start and fought my way to the front but it was really difficult as there were some big drops of rain falling, so it was difficult to know what to expect. It was good for me to follow the other guys because I could see what they were doing. I was pushing quite hard but I also didn’t want to crash, it was so difficult but I tried my best and managed to stay on the bike. I just focused on finding my pace and it was similar to the guys in front. Towards the end of the race I closed the gap to Alex, but then I made some small mistakes and I just didn’t have the tyres anymore to attack again. It was a little bit of a weird race but Alex and I were really strong today and it was great to share the podium with my teammate. It was not the easiest race to control but in the end, we were both on the podium and that is what we aim for. We have made a good step forward and this result, along with Portimao two weeks ago, shows we can fight for the podium at every round. I am really happy and I look forward to Jerez already. On Friday I was really fast immediately, so I think we have found a good base with the R1 now and this has given me a lot of confidence. Jerez is a special track for me, and one I really like. We cannot wait to go there!”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“This afternoon’s race was another typically complicated Magny-Cours one, but the ultimate result for both Alex, Michael, and the R1 was on pure merit and another indication of the step-by-step progress that the project is making on all fronts. Alex has struggled with his starts over the last couple of races, so to secure the lead from the front row was great to see, and this was backed up by an incredible start by Michael from the second row. There were stages of the race where it was difficult for all the riders to know how hard to push but as Alex found his rhythm and needed to respond to Michael’s pressure in the latter stages, the true pace was evident and doing consecutive laps in the 1:38s actually moved us a lot closer to Chaz Davies in the lead. Second place for Alex, backing up yesterday’s very solid ride in the rain, is just rewards for his efforts following a difficult Portimao event and will give him the confidence to aim for more podiums before the end of the season. As a team, we are also extremely happy with Michaels performance, fighting hard to get into the podium group and closing on Alex to challenge for second place. As Alex pushed even harder, Michael had a couple of moments in the tricky conditions and it is a sign of his mature riding mentality that he decided to bring his R1 home to achieve Pata Yamaha’s first double podium. Congratulations to the riders, the team, and to Yamaha!”