Alex Lowes got his 2019 WorldSBK campaign off to a flying start in the first test of the new season in Jerez this week. The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider finished the two-day test second on the timesheet, just 0.2s off the top spot, while Michael van der Mark declared himself happy with the progress made during the test, which he finished in seventh position. Both GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri, continued their familiarisation with the Yamaha YZF-R1 they’ll campaign for the first time this season, ending the test in sixth and eighth place respectively.
A recently resurfaced Jerez track and cool conditions meant a cautious start to the test for Pata Yamaha’s Lowes and van der Mark, both of whom used the first day to confirm set up changes tested at the same circuit back in November. It was Lowes who set the pace on the opening day, storming to the top of the timesheet with a lap time of 1’40.442. Van der Mark, who is still recovering from a wrist injury sustained in the final race of the 2018 season in Qatar, ended the day fifth with a time of 1’41.047.
With improved conditions for the second and final day of testing in Jerez, both Pata Yamaha riders switched their focus to evaluating a number of chassis upgrades, with positive results. Lowes once again led the Yamaha charge, posting a time of 1’39.372 to end the day second fastest, while van der Mark also improved his pace, with a lap time of 1’40.145 securing him seventh position on the timesheet.
For the GRT Yamaha riders the focus during the two days of the Jerez test was to continue the familiarization process started back in November at the same track. Both Cortese and Melandri completed an extensive test program, as they worked with their respective crews to set up the YZF-R1 machines they’ll race this year to suit their individual riding styles.
Melandri identified a number of areas on which to focus when the team moves on to Portimão to continue testing later this week, while Cortese declared himself satisfied with progress after setting his fastest time right at the end of the test with a base set up that gave him more confidence to push for a fast lap.
The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK and GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK teams now head to Portimão for two more days of testing on Sunday and Monday, after which the bikes will be packed and shipped to Australia for the opening round of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship at the Phillip Island circuit.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P2 – 1’39.372
“It’s been a good two days here in Jerez. My best lap today was done on a qualifying tyre. I managed a 1’39.8 with the race tyre, so I found half a second on the qualifier, which is quite good because I think there’s not as much of a gap as there used to be. The bike felt good in qualifying trim and we did a good long run in race trim. The new track surface was quite hard on the tyres, especially the front, but it’s good to have this information now, ahead of the race. We tried a lot of things on the bike today, confirming some of the changes we made yesterday, which was positive given the change in track conditions. This afternoon we worked on the front of the bike and, at the start, we went a little bit in the wrong direction, but then came back and found some improvement, so a proper testing day. Now I’m looking forward to Portimão, where we’ll test what we’ve learnt here on a completely different track. Big thanks to the team and to Yamaha for the work they’ve done over the winter; it certainly looks to have paid off.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P7 – 1’40.145
“It’s been a really positive test. For me it was important to see how my wrist is after the winter break and I’m feeling quite good with it. I’ll certainly be fully fit once we get to Phillip Island for the first race. Once the track had cleaned up yesterday afternoon we tried so many things on the bike, with some big improvements that I like a lot and I think Alex thinks the same. There’s obviously been a lot of hard work done over the winter and it’s good for the people who put in the work to see their efforts rewarded at the first test of the season. I’m happy with what we achieved here in Jerez and now I’m looking forward to Portimão.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P6 – 1’40.075
“At the end it was a very good test for us. Yesterday we couldn’t really test anything as it took some time to find some grip on the new asphalt. On the second day we managed to do a lot of work. Unfortunately I also had a crash, which lost us some time, but at the end of the day we made some very big changes to the set up, mainly because I felt too much on the limit with the bike. In the last hour we improved a lot and it felt much easier to ride fast, so we ended on a high. Now we need to see what happens in Portimão, which is a very different track, but we know from the past that if a bike works well in Jerez then that also translates to other tracks.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P8– 1’40.469
“These two days in Jerez have been positive. Today we were able to understand many things and my race pace wasn’t so bad. But, for me, at the moment the problem is that every time I put in a new rear tyre I struggle a lot and I cannot be fast for a flying lap. But at the end of the day we have learnt something. We need time; it’s not easy, but we have to come back, progress step-by-step, follow my feeling and then try to push harder when I’m ready.”