Mandalika. Strong performance at the finale in Indonesia: the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team and Michael van der Mark (NED) have rounded off the 2021 season in the FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) with a podium finish. The Dutchman rode his BMW M 1000 RR to third place in a rainy second race on Sunday. In the first race, van der Mark had finished sixth in largely dry conditions. Tom Sykes (GBR) completed the two races on the Mandalika International Street Circuit in tenth and fifth positions. Heavy rainfall caused severe schedule delays at the season finale.
In the Superpole on Saturday morning, Sykes secured sixth spot on the grid with van der Mark in ninth place on the third row. Extremely heavy rainfall started just before the scheduled start of the first race on Saturday afternoon and the conditions made it impossible for any racing to take place on Saturday. The schedule was changed to include two long races on Sunday.
The start of race one on Sunday morning was delayed by 15 minutes due to a rain shower. However, the riders were able to start on dry tyres. Van der Mark fell back a little at the start but worked his way forward to reach fifth place at the halfway point of the race. He then dropped down one place in the closing phase, crossing the line in sixth position. Sykes made a good start to move into fourth place and was briefly in third. From lap two onwards, he maintained his position in fifth before falling back in the second half of the race to cross the finish line in tenth position.
As had happened on the previous day, the rain arrived just as the second race was about to begin on Sunday afternoon. The start was delayed by more than one and a half hours and the race was shortened to twelve laps. Van der Mark immediately moved up into the top 5 and was involved in a thrilling duel for third place on the wet circuit with new world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (TUR / Yamaha). Van der Mark prevailed in this battle, claiming another podium finish to round off the season. It was a strong end to a weekend during which van der Mark had struggled with gastrointestinal problems. Sykes fell back a little at the start but was back in fifth place after a few laps. He crossed the finish line in this position.
The races in Mandalika were the last in which Sykes and BMW Motorrad Motorsport competed together, marking the end of three years of working together. From 2019 to 2021, Sykes competed in 90 races for the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team, claiming six podium finishes and three pole positions.
“After having the pleasure to experience such successes together in the past years, I would like to thank Tom on behalf of BMW Motorrad”, said Dr. Markus Schramm, Head of BMW Motorrad. “I remember when we announced our reborn World Superbike project together at EICMA 2018 and started a great journey. Beginning with the S and implementing the M RR, we are very thankful for his contribution to the development of the bike. Podiums and several pole positions have underpinned his effort.”
Quotes after the Mandalika season finale.
Marc Bongers, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “That was a very moving weekend. It was a bit of a tricky start as Mickey was pretty ill. He was very weak, so we reduced the number of laps for him in the practice session to give him a break. It was also an emotional weekend, as it was the final weekend with Tom on the BMW. Then we had that Saturday, when extreme weather conditions prevented the race from taking place. Absolutely torrential rain made racing impossible but it did give Mickey some more time to recover. Both riders did a good job in qualifying, with Tom in sixth and Mickey ninth on the grid, which gave us a really good starting position for the races. Mickey was able to convert that really well into sixth place in the first race, although he was struggling with fitness at the end of the race. He may otherwise have been able to do a bit better. Tom had problems with his front tyres and then fell back to tenth position. That was also not so satisfying for him. However, the result in race two was really excellent. It was great to round off the season with a podium for Mickey and a really good fifth place for Tom. It’s lovely for him to get that result in his final race for our team and I would like to thank him again for all the work he has contributed to this project and the successes he has recorded for us. I wish him all the best for the future. I would also like to congratulate Pata Yamaha and Toprak on winning the title – respect. It was wonderful to be here at the Mandalika International Street Circuit on Lombok. We got a great reception here, from BMW Indonesia too, and the atmosphere is phenomenal. Races like this definitely belong in the world championship. Overall, that was certainly a satisfying season for us. Compared to last year, we have taken a big step forward. Mickey needed a bit of time to get a really good feel for the BMW, but he produced some great races towards the end of the season. He improved continually in qualifying too. We made regular modifications to the motorbike as it was the first year with the BMW M 1000 RR for us too. Results improved towards the end of the year and we were able to close the gap to the leaders in the races as well. It is definitely a positive trend and we are aiming to continue in this direction next year. I am confident that we can then take the next step.”
Shaun Muir, Team Principal BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: “I think Tom did a really good job. He has come back from a a nine-week lay-off and it was also his farewell ride on the BMW M 1000 RR. So a lot of emotions for Tom. He handled it superbly well, professional as he is. He went out there, qualified well in sixth position and to end up with fifth in the final race is testament of his quality. Mickey has not been feeling well all weekend and he started really slowly with very limited laps. In one respect I think the rain has probably helped his performance this weekend because of his physical strength but, after a delayed start, he had a strong race one and an even stronger race two. He just proved that he is still a force in the wet and we are looking forward to get the opportunitiy to get these podiums also in the dry conditions. So, great job by Mickey and the whole team to finish off with a podium. In the 2021 season, we had our ups and downs. Of course the biggest down of the year was Tom’s serious crash. It has been quite a problematic year for us in the sense that it started so late in a very compressed series and then two fly-aways at the very end that came very late. But overall it has not been too bad. We’ve had a win and some podiums and I like to look at the positives, and the fact that Mickey is 20-something points off being fourth in the championship. I think that should really be applauded because for his first year on the bike that’s fantastic. We know he can only get better so maybe he can be in the top-3 next year. So that’s the positive for me. I want to thank Tom for his efforts, he has been a great team member. Right from the end of 2018 when we signed him he was a pillar of the team, he got the initial results and drove the team into the right direction with his experience. We hope that he can get his chance again in WorldSBK and prove his credentials and, whatever he does, we wish him well. He will always be part of this success and this chapter of the WorldSBK project.”
Michael van der Mark, BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: “Race one this morning was quite fun. At the start, it was a bit wet here and there and this track has quite a lot of grip with slicks in the wet patches. So I was enjoying the first part of the race and thought I could be battling for the front but then it started to dry pretty quick. I was battling for fifth, fourth position, feeling good and my pace was okay but I was still not feeling well. At the end of the race I was frustrated because I ran out of energy and I lost another position. I was really angry about that but I had to deal with it. Then race two unfortunately was postponed but it was the right decision. When we went racing, the track was fully wet and it was still raining a little bit. I knew that the track would have a lot of grip and these 12 laps I think were long enough. I had a good start and okay first laps. It was so much fun and at a certain point I was battling with Toprak. We had some really nice battles on track, it went back and forward and I really enjoyed it. To finish the season with third place is incredible, it is always nice to finish the season on the podium and especially knowing we had so much fun. I think the season has been quite good but we want to make steps forward this winter to be able to fight for the podium more often and also in the dry.”
Tom Sykes, BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team: “It was fantastic to finally get back in the racing arena. Honestly, after the accident that I had and the break of nine weeks to come back here to competition I think was a tall ask and working with the guys is always a pleasure. I got settled in right away on the circuit in Mandalika. They have done a fantastic job, so to come here to this great track at this venue at this part of the world is already a pleasure and, as the weekend progressed, to qualify on the second row was already quite good, I think. Into race one, we got a good start and we were at the back of the leading bunch but just couldn’t manage that with some limitations I had with the package so I unfortunately dropped back and then made some mistakes myself. But regarding race two, fantastic. The surface is great in the wet conditions. There was another delay but there was great support from the crowd in the grandstand and finally we were able to get another race in front of those guys. I think it was a great race from a spectacle point of view. I enjoyed the racing and the grip the track offered in the wet. In general, the 2021 season was bitter-sweet for obvious reasons. At the start, we were not quite where we needed to be in terms of development and we had some issues, but I still was the strongest BMW rider. Donington was great for me, Mickey and BMW. This was probably the highlight of the season. Development was always difficult; we tried to do that during the events and race at the same time but it’s always a pleasure to work with the guys and we gave our best. When I came to the project three years ago, I joined a fantastic brand and I was happy to be part of the BMW team. We had some great success in the first year considering where we were at. In year two, we unfortunately had some technical DNFs and stuff. Unfortunately, the only concern I have in these three years is that I don’t think we ever got to see Tom Sykes’s full potential in a race. The only glimpse we have ever seen was in qualifying. But for me and the team and mainly for BMW I was really hoping we could get the package so I could show my qualifying performance over 21 laps. That is the biggest thing I have missed in these three years but we tried, had some good results, and I have to thank everyone involved for the efforts and appreciate the work.”