Michael van der Mark scythed his way through the pack to finish fourth in a thrilling WorldSBK Race 1 in Imola today, with only a spirited ride by Toprak Razgatlioglu in the closing stages denying the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider his third podium finish of the season. Teammate Alex Lowes put in an heroic effort to finish in seventh place, despite suffering badly from the effects of a stomach bug picked up earlier in the week. GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Marco Melandri, split the Pata Yamaha pairing, overcoming the set-up issues he experienced yesterday to claim sixth place in front of his home crowd today. Sandro Cortese suffered his first DNF of the season, following a crash at turn 12 late in the race.
Lining up eighth on the grid after a difficult Superpole qualifying session, van der Mark got one of his trademark lightning starts and had fought his way through to fourth on the opening lap, with teammate Lowes in close attendance behind. The two Pata Yamaha riders then rode in formation until Lowes made a pass for fourth on lap three, before having to surrender the position as the effects of his illness started to take their toll on his energy reserves.
Once back in front of his teammate the retirement of Tom Sykes at half race distance promoted van der Mark to third and into what would prove a titanic battle with Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam for the final podium position. The Turkish rider made his move on lap 11, outbraking van der Mark into turn two to claim third position, which, despite a spirited challenge from the Pata Yamaha rider in the final two laps, he managed to defend to the line, leaving van der Mark to finish fourth. The Dutch rider was quick to congratulate Razgatlioglu, not just for the podium finish but also for the close but fair fight over the final few laps.
With his energy reserves sapped by the illness he’s been suffering with all weekend, Lowes was unable to match the pace of his teammate and, as the race progressed, dropped back into the clutches of first Haslam and then Melandri, eventually finishing the race in seventh place; an heroic effort given his physical condition. Lowes is confident that, if he can recover some of his strength overnight then he has the package necessary to fight for the podium tomorrow.
After struggling with a number of set-up issues throughout free practice and qualifying, GRT Yamaha’s Melandri managed to make a small improvement ahead of the race, which allowed the Italian to salvage a sixth place finish, much to the delight of his home crowd.
It proved a difficult Race 1 for Cortese, who lost much of yesterday’s second free practice session due to a crash on the harder option front tyre. The reigning Supersport World Champion was initially involved in the battle for a top ten finish, but a crash without injury at turn 12 with just three laps remaining brought his race to a premature conclusion.
The four Yamaha riders will be back in action tomorrow morning in the 10-lap Superpole sprint race, which gets underway at 11.00, followed by lights out for Race 2 at 14.00.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P4
“Qualifying wasn’t as good as it could have been, meaning I started from position eight on the grid, which I wasn’t too happy about. But I got a great start, immediately making it through into fourth place and I felt not exactly great with the bike, but I had a good pace. Some guys were a little quicker, but I was just doing my thing and was involved in some really nice battles in the beginning. Towards the end I could see Toprak was closing in on me and he was eventually able to make a pass stick. I tried everything to stay with him, thinking he’d lose a little bit of pace in the closing laps and I could retake third, but he didn’t. I tried to put in a pass a couple of times anyway, but he defended really well and there was no way through. A podium in Imola would have been great but even so I’m pretty happy with this result and I’m sure we can improve the bike further ahead of the two races tomorrow.”
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P7
“Given my condition I’m really relieved to have come away from the race today with a top ten finish and nine points because, after qualifying, I was feeling the worst that I’ve felt all weekend. I didn’t feel any better ahead of the race, so I knew I was going to run out of energy at some point, but I didn’t expect to be physically sick during the race on top of everything else! I just did the best that I could under the circumstances, and these probably count as the best nine points I’ve ever scored. So, I’m reasonably happy, but now I hope I can recover a bit more by tomorrow so we can fight again at the front, but this time for the whole race.”
“It was one more very difficult race, although not quite as difficult as qualifying. We made some changes to the bike for the race and that brought a small step forward, but it’s still not enough. I feel like I still can’t use the strongest points of my riding to my advantage at the moment, because I don’t have the best feeling with the bike. It’s not easy, but we continue to work to get better.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – DNF
“A very tough race today. We’ve struggled a bit all weekend, but today was the toughest day and, unfortunately, it ended with a crash. We are still analysing the data to discover the cause, but now we need to look towards the two races tomorrow. I’m really positive about tomorrow and I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike to race again.”