The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK and GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders enjoyed a strong opening day at Round 2 of the FIM Superbike World Championship in Thailand, with all four riders finishing inside the top six. It was Sandro Cortese who led the way, with a late run in this afternoon’s second free practice session securing the German third place on the timesheet. Close behind in fourth place was Alex Lowes, with his Pata Yamaha teammate Michael van der Mark in fifth and GRT Yamaha’s Marco Melandri in sixth. The four Yamaha riders were separated by just two-tenths of a second.
It was van der Mark who made the early running in this morning’s opening free practice, which was run in sweltering conditions at the 4.554km Chang International Circuit. The Dutchman was immediately on the pace and continued to improve his lap time throughout the session to end third on the timesheet, one place and one tenth ahead of Melandri. Lowes and Cortese enjoyed a steadier start in the first session, finishing sixth and seventh respectively.
In the second and final free practice of the day, with the track temperature peaking at an incredible 56 degrees Centigrade, it was Lowes who initially led the Yamaha charge in third place on the timesheet. However, a fast lap of 1’33. 465 from Cortese right at the end of the session saw the WorldSBK rookie jump up the order to third, pushing Lowes back to fourth.
Van der Mark continued to refine the set-up of his Yamaha YZF-R1 during FP2 this afternoon and was rewarded with an improvement in his lap time compared to FP1. A time of 1’33.562 was enough to see him finish the day fifth, one place ahead of Melandri, who secured sixth place on the timesheet with a time of ‘1.33.624.
The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK and GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders will return to action in FP3 at 11.00 local time tomorrow, before lights out for Race 1 at 16.00 local time.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P4 – 1’33.550
“It was a solid start for us today here in Thailand. This track is a little bit less technical than a lot of tracks that we race at the lap times are always really close, as you can see from the fact that the four Yamaha riders are all close together on the timesheet. I was quite happy with today, I managed to string together a lot of laps at a very consistent pace but we do still need to find some more small improvements, especially mid-corner to exit, where I feel like I’m running out of track a little bit. That’s what I’ll be focussing on tonight and, hopefully, tomorrow we’ll see some improvement in this area.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P5 – 1’33.562
“This is a track I enjoy riding and I always seem to go well here. This morning I felt good from the start, with just a few small changes to the bike enough to see me finish the session in third place. I was happy with that. This afternoon we tried a few more changes to try and improve the turning and increase the amount of rear grip available, with mixed results initially. However, we made some small improvements towards the end of the session and I was able to improve my lap time on my final run. The pace is there, as is the consistency, so I’m satisfied with where we are right now, but I’m missing a bit the feeling with the front still, so that’s something we need to look at tomorrow. If we can put everything together then we’ll be in a strong position for the first race.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P3 – 1’33.465
“Today was a very positive one for me and the team. We started this morning with the set-up from Phillip Island as the base and, of course, we had to make adjustments to suit the characteristics of this track, with its heavy braking zones. After FP1 we sat down and started to work in the right direction ahead of FP2. Of course I’m happy to finish P3 today, but I’m also realistic and keeping my feet on the ground, because the race is tomorrow. We need to keep calm and keep working. If we can do this then the results will come, of that I’m sure. A big thanks to Yamaha and the team for their incredible support, as this is also a big motivation for me.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P6 – 1’33.624
“I’m a little bit concerned at the moment, as I’m experiencing the same issues that I had here last year. The bike is very unstable on the straight and I can’t understand why. On a new tyre the first lap is good, but then on the second the stability problem appears and then gets worse with each further lap. Maybe it’s a combination of my size and weight together with the casing of the tyre causing the issue, but I don’t really know. It’s strange that I should have the same problem on two completely different bikes though. We will sit down tonight and go through the data to see if we can find a solution for tomorrow.”