Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes, overcame difficult conditions in today’s WorldSBK Race at Phillip Island to add to their championship points haul with fourth and fifth place respectively. Van der Mark and Lowes rode a tactical race to conserve their tyres; a strategy that allowed them to close on and then pass fellow Yamaha rider, Marco Melandri, on the final lap. The GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider held on to claim sixth place at the line, while his teammate Sandro Cortese made It another strong race for Yamaha by finishing in eighth position.
Van der Mark, starting from fifth position on the grid as a result of his finishing position in today’s inaugural Superpole sprint race, was immediately involved in the battle for second place with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, but backed off to conserve his tyres when he felt the rear start to slide just before mid-race distance. This allowed Melandri to pass him for fourth but, rather than stressing his tyre further by giving chase immediately, the Pata Yamaha rider maintained a steady pace, saving his tyre for a final push in the closing stages.
The strategy worked perfectly, with van der Mark able to close onto the back of Melandri as they started the final lap and then put in a pass up the inside at turn two to take fourth, a position he then held to the line. The result means that van der Mark leaves Australia fifth in the championship standings with 29 points.
Lowes found himself in a similar situation after losing out on the run down to turn one after starting from fourth on the grid. The Pata Yamaha rider took three laps to pass Eugene Laverty, by which time the group ahead had pulled a significant gap. Lowes also opted to conserve his tyres rather than push to close the gap and risk not finishing the race, maintaining a consistent pace that allowed him to close on the battle for fourth as first Melandri and then van der Mark started to struggle for grip.
The Briton passed Melandri for fifth at Lukey Heights on the final lap and was able to defend the position to the line. After the opening round of the 2019 season Lowes lies fourth in the championship standings with 30 points, the same number of points as third placed Melandri.
Melandri’s fourth place in Race 2, combined with his third place in Race 1 and sixth place in the Superpole race means that the Italian now lies third in the championship standings with 30 points. Melandri also leads the Independent Riders Championship.
Despite a minor technical issue slowing his pace in Race 2 this afternoon, Cortese rode an intelligent race to round out his debut WorldSBK weekend with another eighth place finish. The reigning Supersport World Champion arrived in Phillip Island with three top ten finishes as his goal and he leaves Australia having surpassed his own expectations. The WorldSBK rookie lies seventh in the championship standings with 19 points.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P4
“I got a really good start and my pace was fast, but I was a little worried about using the tyre too quickly. I didn’t want to slow down, as I wanted to stay with the two Kawasakis, but when Marco came past me I felt like I was having to push the tyre just a little bit too much to stay with him. I just decided to do my own rhythm, which was not as quick as I’d have liked, but I knew it was the only way to ride the race. Towards the end the Kawasakis were slowing and so was Marco, which allowed me to catch and pass him on the last lap. I’m happy enough with fourth place after struggling all weekend with the durability of the tyres. We had some problems but we still picked up a lot of points here in Phillip Island.”
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P5
“I lost quite a lot of time at the start behind Eugene Laverty; the Ducati is so fast in a straight line that I couldn’t pass him cleanly, then I didn’t want to panic and try and go too fast, as it’s easy to wear out the tyres, as we saw in the sprint race. I just stayed calm and almost timed it right at the end. It’s a bit frustrating because I felt that, looking at the times, I probably had the pace to challenge the Kawasakis for a podium but when you’re three seconds behind at the end of the second lap then, round here, it’s hard to make that time up. It’s a shame, but I’ll take fifth place and see if we can have a stronger round next time out in Thailand.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P6
“Today I was expecting s bit more. In the Superpole race I had a few mistakes at the beginning and lost a lot of positions. I tried to come back but it was a really short race. In Race 2 I got a good start and had good pace in the beginning. Once I caught the two Kawasakis I decided to wait a bit because for the tyre it’s a very difficult race, but when Johnny passed Leon for the first time I tried to push into the middle, but the rear tyre left me there and I had to slow down my pace and just try to finish the race. Unfortunately van der Mark and Lowes passed me back, but I still think that for us it’s been a very good weekend. It’s been a difficult winter but the races are different, so I’m feeling good and I think the next races can be even better.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P8
“Overall it’s been a really good weekend for me, with eighth place in both races and also seventh in the sprint race. For my very first WorldSBK weekend I think It’s been positive, even if we had some issues with the tyres during the weekend and a small technical issue in race two, which meant I was happy to finish in eighth place. Top ten was the goal and we managed that in both races, I learned a lot over the weekend and it was much better than during testing and now I can’t wait for Thailand.”
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
“Overall we can be happy with the performance we have shown in Australia; a very consistent performance by all four riders who were in the top eight in three races here. This shows the maturity of both and the operation at the racetrack. We were also able to confirm the performance of the bike that we saw during winter testing at a racetrack where we’ve struggled a little in the past. It was also gratifying to see that our YZF-R1 was competitive in the hands of Michael and Alex, who have a lot of experience with the bike, and also with Marco and Sandro, who were racing the bike for the first time here in Australia. While this weekend was a good start to the season, it is also clear where we have to improve, so we leave here satisfied but also motivated to close the gap further to our competitors. Seeing our four bikes fighting together on the track is a clear sign that our project is going in the right direction and for that I’d like to thank the riders, the teams and all the Yamaha staff for their hard work and dedication.”