Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider, Alex Lowes, rode an intelligent race to fifth place in difficult conditions at Donington Park today, as rain replaced the sunshine of the opening day. Michael van der Mark achieved his goal of a top ten finish with eighth place in WorldSBK Race 1, despite starting from the sixth row of the grid.
Grey skies and a wet track greeted the WorldSBK riders as they headed out for Superpole this morning, but with the rain easing ahead of the session a dry line was quick to appear, although neither of the two Pata Yamaha riders were able to take advantage.
A crash at Goddards early in the session meant that Lowes and his crew erred on the side of caution and opted for intermediate tyres when he returned to the track for his one and only qualifying run. While his first flying lap put him second on the timesheet, Lowes was eventually demoted to eighth place as his slick shod rivals posted faster laps in the final minutes. Teammate van der Mark suffered a similar fate, missing the window to pit for fresh tyres, which left him 16th on the grid after completing the whole session on wets.
The rain returned just after midday, making for tricky track conditions for WorldSBK Race 1. Both Pata Yamaha riders took a measured approach in the early stages of the race, getting a feel for the conditions as the field was reduced by numerous crashes. Having caught and pressurised Alvaro Bautista until his crash on lap 11, Lowes then rode alone in fifth place for most of the race, lapping consistently and retaining focus all the way to the chequered flag to pick up valuable championship points.
After some brief battles early in race, including riding around the outside of Toprak Razgatlioglu at Hollywood to break into the top ten, van der Mark also found himself racing alone. The Pata Yamaha rider, who underwent surgery on a fractured right radius only ten days ago, eventually finished in eighth position to consolidate his third place in the championship standings.
It proved a difficult Race 1 for the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese. The Italian struggled with a lack of rear grip throughout the 23-lap race, which he started from the third row of the grid but managed to pick up points with a 14th place finish. After a good start from 12th on the grid Cortese was challenging for the top ten when he crashed without injury at turn eight just nine laps into the race.
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, was once again the first Yamaha rider home in wet conditions. The Frenchman was involved in the battle for the podium in the early stages, eventually finishing fourth and top independent rider on his R1.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P5
“It was difficult today because I felt like I didn’t have any grip on corner entry and exit for the whole race and, for the first five laps, it felt like I didn’t have enough temperature in the tyres. Then I sort of found a bit of a rhythm and caught Alvaro, but the race had broken up by then and I was sitting fifth with a big gap in front and a big gap behind. From then it was a case of bringing it home. It’s a shame because I didn’t feel like I was really racing, but happy to take the points for a top five finish because, as we saw today, it was very easy to make a mistake in the conditions. Hopefully the sun will be shining tomorrow and we can do a bit better.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P8
“We learned a lesson in Superpole this morning but, in the end, the race turned out quite well for us. It was a wet race and, with the injury, I didn’t want to take too many risks, especially as the conditions were particularly tricky today. I got a really good start from way back on the grid and I had good speed, but it was really difficult with so much spray from the bikes in front. It took me some laps to build confidence and that allowed the leading group to get away from me, but I think that was a good thing in some ways, because the goal today was first just to complete the race and then to score points. I had a good rhythm, a few good battles and I’m happy to finish inside the top ten today, as it was way better than we expected coming into the weekend. Now I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s races.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P14
“I don’t really know what the problem was today, but in the wet the feeling was like I had no grip at all from the rear and I could not feel the connection with the track for the whole race. The bike was moving so much on the rear and there was no feeling at all. It meant the bike was impossible for me to ride today. It’s strange because normally in the wet I’m fast but now, whenever there is a lot of water on track, I get lost. We will see tomorrow, when the conditions are expected to improve.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – DNF
“It’s a big shame because I got a great start and was fighting for a top ten position when I had a highside on entry to the corner. Luckily, I’m uninjured, but it’s always a shame not to finish a race because of a small mistake. Sorry for the team, who have some work to do now to repair my R1, but let’s hope we have better conditions for the two races tomorrow so that we can make amends with better results.”