Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes, both showed improved pace in today’s Superpole Sprint Race in Imola, which they finished in fourth and fifth places respectively. It proved a more difficult outing for the two GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, however. Sandro Cortese capped off what has been his toughest WorldSBK weekend to date with a 13th place finish, while Marco Melandri opted for the wrong set-up and finished the 10-lap race in 17th position. Torrential rain at the Imola circuit forced the cancellation of WorldSBK Race 2 on safety grounds.
Changes to the set-up of his R1 paid dividends for van der Mark in the sprint race, with the Pata Yamaha rider able to maintain a faster pace compared to yesterday. After a brief battle in the early stages, Van der Mark managed to pull away from the riders contesting fifth place, including Toprak Razgatlioglu, who’d denied the Pata Yamaha rider a podium finish yesterday. By the time he’d hit the front of the group, however, the gap to Alvaro Bautista and the last step of the podium was too big to bridge in the limited laps available and van der Mark had to settle for fourth at the line.
Although still suffering with the stomach bug that has caused him so many issues this weekend, it was a much stronger Lowes that lined up for the sprint race this morning. The Pata Yamaha rider was embroiled in the battle for fifth position from the start, eventually fighting his way to the front of the group and then pulling a gap on his pursuers. While disappointed not to have broken clear with his teammate earlier, Lowes was happy to add more points to his championship tally with a solid fifth place, after what has been a difficult weekend for the Briton.
The Imola weekend is one that Cortese will be happy to put behind him. The reigning Supersport World Champion struggled to find a good feeling with the bike and the track all weekend, which culminated in a 13th place finish in the Superpole sprint race this morning. Always upbeat in the face of adversity, Cortese is already looking forward to the next race in Jerez, a track he knows very well indeed.
Melandri was one of quite a few riders caught out by the changeable weather conditions ahead of the sprint race today. The GRT Yamaha rider opted to run a wet set-up on his R1, which left him at a distinct disadvantage when conditions for the 10-lap race remained dry. Combined with some unconnected issues in the race, it left the veteran Italian to finish in an uncharacteristic 17th position.
All four Yamaha riders will complete a two-day test in Misano ahead of the next round of the FIM Superbike World Championship, which takes place in Jerez over the weekend of 7 – 9 June.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P4 – Championship Position P4 – 134 Points
“We changed quite a lot on the bike for the Superpole Race and I immediately felt that the bike was better, especially in the areas we identified for improvement after Race 1 yesterday. This gave me a lot of confidence and my pace was a lot quicker compared to yesterday. I got a good start and had a little battle in the beginning, but that meant I just lost contact with Alvaro, who managed to pull a gap that I didn’t have time to close. But I had a good lead over the guys behind me and, while it wasn’t the most exciting race I’ve ever had, I was really happy with the feeling of the bike and my pace in the race. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to take advantage of the improvements in Race 2 this afternoon, as it was cancelled due to the weather. It’s a shame because we wanted to race and everyone who’d braved the weather to be here wanted to see us race, but with so much standing water on the track it just wasn’t safe.”
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P5 – Championship Position P3 – 140 Points
“The bike felt great in the Superpole race. I had a good battle with the Leon and Toprak in the early stages of the race, before pulling a bit of a gap on them. My best laps were near the end of the race and I felt that, maybe, if I’d have got clear sooner then I might have been able to have a good battle with Michael. But for us to finish fourth and fifth on what has previously been a tough track for us shows just how much we’ve improved. It gives me a lot of confidence going forward, now that we’ve been so competitive at what was probably our worst track last year. I’m really happy with the weekend; I’ve been up against it a bit with the sickness, but I’m quite proud of myself for how I’ve dealt with it and come out of it with some decent points. A big thank you to all the fans that turned out over the weekend, but especially today. Luckily, they got to see the Superpole race and then a thrilling Supersport race, but it was a shame they missed out on Race 2 because of the weather conditions. We had a lot of rain in a short space of time and there was a lot of standing water on track. This circuit has a couple of third and fourth gear kinks, which are really fast, and that’s exactly where the standing water was collecting. On a bike, surrounded by other riders at those speeds, it simply wasn’t safe enough to race this afternoon, unfortunately.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P13 – Championship Position P9 – 64 Points
“Overall this was my toughest weekend in WorldSBK. From the start we didn’t find the correct set-up and then there were the crashes, one on oil, one due to a technical problem and then, in Race 1, because of a mistake. But that’s racing; sometimes when you have hard days then they are really hard and, anyway, I’d prefer to have all the problems in one race so that we can put them behind us and look forward to the test in Misano and the next race in Jerez, a track I like and one that I know very well. Imola, on the other hand, has proved a very difficult track. The rain meant it was impossible to race today, which is a real shame. I feel sorry for the fans, stood in the rain all day waiting for a race that was eventually cancelled but, while we all wanted to race, the decision was made on safety grounds and I think that was the right way to go.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P17 – Championship Position P7 – 79 Points
“I was really disappointed with the Superpole race this morning. We thought it was going to be wet, so we went with different settings in the bike, but when it turned out to be dry we didn’t have time to switch back to a dry set-up. Also, we had some other issues because of the confusion and, in the opening laps, I thought there was a problem with the bike and I wasn’t pushing. When I started to push a bit more, I started to struggle a lot, much worse than yesterday. I think if we were at a different track then we could have raced today despite the rain. The grip in the wet at Imola was quite okay but the problem here is the layout of the track and the proximity of the walls. With the poor visibility today, it was too dangerous to race. I’m a bit disappointed because the two sighting laps I did on the way to the grid felt okay, but it was not the right choice to race today. Sorry to the fans who braved the weather to be here today, but safety is important.”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“it’s been a weekend of mixed fortunes for the two Yamaha teams here in Imola. Michael and Alex have had a solid weekend at a track that, in the past, has not been overly kind to us. Michael was unlucky to miss out on a podium finish in Race 1 yesterday but, as his pace in the Superpole race this morning showed, the podium was a realistic target had Race 2 gone ahead this afternoon. It’s been a difficult weekend for Alex, as he’s had quite a debilitating illness to deal with, but I have to commend him on his resilience and the fact that he still managed two strong results despite his physical condition. What Michael and Alex’s results in Imola have illustrated quite clearly is the step forward we’ve taken with improving the consistency of the R1, to the point where we are now competitive even at tracks where we’ve struggled in the past. For Sandro and Marco, it’s been a difficult weekend here in Imola, for different reasons. Sandro lost a lot of track time as a result of the crash on Friday and, as a result, he never really found a good feeling with the bike or the track. Marco, on the other hand, is still struggling with the same issues he’s had since Thailand, which means he hasn’t been able to realise his full potential. However, we are confident that we can resolve these issues during two days of testing in Misano later this month and that Marco will be back where he should be next time out in Jerez.”