Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s Michael van der Mark sent the Dutch fans wild at a hot and sunny Assen on Saturday during Race 1 at Round 4 of the WorldSBK Championship. Riding at his home round, he recovered from a tricky SP2 to charge from seventh on the grid to secure his second podium of the season after a sensational ride at the TT Circuit Assen. It was a more of a mixed day for his teammate Alex Lowes. The British rider secured his maiden WorldSBK pole position after a stunning lap in SP2 but when the lights went out for Race 1, after a great start, it became obvious something was not right. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, the wrong front tyre had been fitted to his R1 on the grid, which meant that after five laps he simply had no grip. Despite this, he battled bravely to bring his Pata Yamaha R1 home in a creditable 12th place.
Van der Mark loves racing in front of the Dutch fans at Assen and it always seems to bring out the best in the 25-year-old rider. After ending Friday’s practice in third overall, he entered into SP2 confident he could fight for pole but a mistake on the qualifying tyre saw him miss out on the lap time he knew was capable of. Starting the race from seventh on the gird, the 2014 WorldSSP Champion made his usual lightning start and was up to fourth by the first corner. Remaining calm and focused, he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 2, picking his way past his teammate on the third lap to move up into second and then became involved in a race-long game of cat and mouse with Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies.
Van der Mark made the grandstand erupt when he made a classic Assen move on Rea at the Geert Timmer Chicane to take the lead and attempted to break away. Try as he might, he could not shake Rea and by lap nine, Chaz Davies had joined the party to make it a three-way battle for victory. A thrilling final few laps ensued, with van der Mark always in the hunt for the race win, matching Rea and Davis lap for lap. On lap 17 he blasted past Davies into second and tried to dislodge Rea from the lead but it was not meant to be. To the delight of the Dutch fans, the man from Rotterdam crossed the line in second, just 0.981s behind Rea to secure his second podium of the season and collect 20 championship points. The result sees van der Mark move up into fourth in the overall standings with 87 points, only 19 points behind Marco Melandri in third. Knowing he has the pace to fight for the win, he will enter into Sunday’s Race 2 with the mission of going one better and aiming for his first Yamaha victory from eighth on the grid.
Lowes ended Friday’s practice in fifth and felt good on his Pata Yamaha R1 during Saturday’s morning FP4 session, which saw him enter into SP2 full of confidence. After his first run in the 15-minute qualifying session, he was lying in third having set a 1:35.163, but the best was yet to come. On his final run, Lowes showed supreme speed and commitment, to set a 1:34.066 and take his maiden WorldSBK pole position in superb style. Unfortunately, that was the highlight of Lowes’ Saturday. When it came to Race 1, there was a suspected problem with his number one bike which could have caused a safety issue, so he was given official permission to switch to his second bike.
With both machines prepared identically, this was no issue for the 27-year-old British rider but, unfortunately, somehow there was an error on the grid and the wrong compound front tyre was fitted to his Pata Yamaha R1. When the lights went out, Lowes was battling at the front and had the pace to fight for victory but after five laps, he suffered from a drastic loss of grip due to the softer compound of his front tyre. As the race went on, the grip levels became progressively worse and it was a heroic effort from the 2013 British Superbike Champion to ride around the issue and bravely bring his R1 home in 12th place. Knowing he has the pace to fight at the front, Lowes is looking to forward to bouncing back in Sunday’s Race 2 and mounting a podium challenge from 10th on the grid. The four points he secured in Race 1 means he is now seventh in the championship standings with 74 points, just 2 behind Tom Sykes in sixth.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team will be ready to fight for the podium once more on Sunday, with the action kicking off at 9:35 am CEST for Warm Up and the 21-lap race scheduled to start at 1 pm. Check out the full WorldSBK Race 2 results.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 2nd +0.981s
“I am really, really happy with the result. In SP2, I made a big mistake on my qualifying tyre and I was quite angry. I had to start from P7 but had a good start and took a special line into Turn 1 to make up a couple of places. I stayed quiet in the first few laps, passed a few people and I knew I had to stay calm because I had the pace to fight at the front. Step by step I managed my way to the front and I was following Jonny and I thought he wasn’t pushing 100%, so I tried to stay with him. Then, I managed to get past him and tried to push to see if we could break away from the other guys behind us but, after that, he passed me again and I just tried to stay with him because I knew in the last few laps we could have a good battle. Then Chaz got involved in the mix. I was a little bit worried but when I saw how hard Chaz was pushing Jonny and I could follow them quite well, I was really happy. Then, in the last few laps, I saw that everyone was struggling a little bit. I passed Chaz and I tried to catch Jonny but he had a little bit more pace and he took the race win. Anyway, I am really happy with P2 as this is the closest we have been to a victory. For tomorrow, we have to improve some small areas on my R1 and I think we can fight at the front again.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – 12th +33.226s
“It was a great start to the day to get my maiden WorldSBK pole but, obviously, I would prefer to have a race win! Before the race, we swapped to my second bike because there was an issue and, unfortunately, we made a mistake and put the wrong tyre in the bike on the grid. We are not sure how it happened but it was beyond my control. It was a tough day because I was riding really well and I think showed my speed when I was fighting at the front. I made a really good step in FP4 and, as it turned out, we had better pace than we expected, which was nice. We win and lose together as a team, I have complete confidence in my guys, the R1 feels great here so we will come out fighting tomorrow!”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“Well done to Michael and his crew – what a race! Qualifying was disappointing for Michael but the way he responded from the start and in the early laps was fantastic, and then to battle for the win over full race distance with the Championship’s key protagonists was super-impressive. The R1 worked superbly well and especially in the fast, flowing corners Michael and the Yamaha were very much the package to beat. There are a couple of key points on the track that we need to improve just a little and, if we achieve that, then Michael can again aim very high in Race 2 tomorrow. Thanks to him and his hard-working crew and engineers for giving Pata Yamaha a great result and getting ever closer to the victory we are targeting!
Alex did an incredible and impressive lap to achieve his, and the new generation R1’s, first WorldSBK pole position – but unfortunately this was the high point of the day and things became a little more complicated after that. Shortly before the pit-lane opened for the race, the team diagnosed a suspected fault that could have created a safety issue and we were forced to change, with the FIM’s permission, to the back-up machine. This bike was perfectly prepared and, despite the stress caused by such a late notice change of machine, caused Alex no compromise to the performance. However, due to a team error, the incorrect compound front tyre was unknowingly fitted on the grid and, after only 5 laps, Alex knew he was in trouble. The tyre became progressively worse and rendered the R1 almost un-rideable as the race progressed – we have to thank Alex for bringing the bike home in the points and for his supportive, mature attitude after the race. As Team Principal, I apologise to Alex and to Yamaha for letting them both down today. We will recover from this and move forward positively as a team, starting tomorrow.
Despite this, of course, we have to be positive – fastest Lap of Race 1 and an awesome P2 result for Michael; pole position and a great race performance by Alex under incredibly difficult circumstances. We look forward to tomorrow with great anticipation.”