Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider, Michael van der Mark, looked set to claim his second win of the 2019 season in WorldSBK Race 1 at Magny-Cours this afternoon until, with just two laps of the race remaining, the Dutchman lost the front under braking for Turn 5 and crashed out of the lead. Van der Mark remounted to finish 13th, leaving Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, and home hero, Loris Baz, to lead the Yamaha riders home in fourth place, only narrowly missing out on his first podium finish.
Technical set up for the race, which was held in the driest conditions seen at Magny-Cours so far this weekend, was a calculated gamble given the lack of dry practice time, but it was obvious from the start that van der Mark’s crew had gone in the right direction for both the track and the conditions.
Starting from the front row of the grid having qualified second in Superpole, van der Mark was in the thick of the action from the off, making aggressive moves to get the better of a five-way battle and take the lead seven laps into the race. As soon as he hit the front the Pata Yamaha rider immediately upped his pace and pulled a gap on the four riders disputing second place. Van der Mark maintained an advantage of around a second to his pursuers until reigning World Champion, Jonathan Rea, managed to close the gap with four laps to go.
One lap later van der Mark made an error under braking for Turn 5, running in a little bit too aggressively, losing the front and sliding off, handing the race lead to Rea. The Pata Yamaha rider remounted to finish 13th and is determined to make amends in the two races tomorrow.
After a strong start from the second row of the grid, Alex Lowes fought valiantly within the group contesting second place until a severe drop off in grip from the front tyre forced him to moderate his pace and settle for a solid sixth place at the line. The result consolidates his third place in the championship standings, giving him an 11-point advantage over today’s race winner, Toprak Razgatlioglu in fourth and 12 points over his fifth placed teammate, van der Mark.
After a strong showing in the wet and mixed conditions yesterday, Marco Melandri’s race aspirations took a blow when he crashed in Superpole and was forced to start today from the fourth row of the grid. Despite a less than perfect set-up on his GRT Yamaha YZF-R1, the Italian managed to fight his way through the pack to finish a creditable eighth in the 21-lap race.
The weather at Magny-Cours couldn’t have been less kind to Sandro Cortese, who was making his debut at the French track aboard a Superbike. The reigning Supersport World Champion was hoping for dry conditions in which to adapt to the demands of the Superbike but was left disappointed when rain disrupted every practice session and Superpole was held on a fully wet track. Despite the limited dry track time, Cortese rode a solid race from 17th on the grid to secure another top ten finish this afternoon.
It was home hero Baz who eventually led the Yamaha riders home in fourth place today, despite struggling throughout the 21-lap race with the setup on his Ten Kate Yamaha YZF-R1. The Frenchman was poised to challenge Tom Sykes for the final podium place on the final lap, but a near highside at Turn 8 left Baz with too much ground to make up in the final two kilometres and he was forced to settle for a still impressive fourth at the chequered flag.
Michael van der Mark
Michael van der Mark: Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P13 – Championship P5 – 247 Points
“I made a mistake today. I was starting to struggle with the front a little in the later stages of the race, but I had too much brake and too much lean angle going into the hairpin at Turn 5 and I went down. I’m really sorry for the guys, who did an incredible job with my R1 given the lack of dry track time this weekend. There was a bit of chaos in the first few laps, but the bike felt really good and I felt really strong. Towards the end I was pushing, maintaining my rhythm, but I didn’t feel on the limit. I could see Johnny was closing, but I wasn’t stressing about that, but just trying to keep my own pace. The crash was down to a mistake on my part, but we know we have a good set up for the dry, which we’ll work to improve further tonight, so I’ll be out to make amends in the two races tomorrow. I enjoyed myself a lot today apart from the crash, the R1 was really fun to ride so thanks to Yamaha and my crew for a great package.”
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P13 – Championship P3 – 259 Points
“I knew from the start that it was going to be a difficult race, because our dry track time this weekend has been so limited. I got a good start and made my way up to fourth, but then six or seven laps into the race I started to struggle a lot with the front tyre and by the end of the race, one side was completely destroyed. This meant that, unfortunately, the second half of the race was about making it to the finish rather than pushing to gain places, as there wasn’t much more I could do. While we didn’t have the package to fight today, we’ve got plenty of time to think about it tonight and a couple of races to try and do better tomorrow.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P8 – Championship P9 – 161 Points
“We’ve had different conditions for every session this weekend and even the race wasn’t so easy, as there were still damp patches on track at the start. It was a difficult race for me. I was with Leon Camier for most of the race and, while sometimes I felt a bit faster than him, the only time I was able to try a pass I ended up running wide. We still have the same issues and I feel more of a passenger on the bike rather than the rider, but we will try again tomorrow to do better.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P10 – Championship P10 – 122 Points
“With only a few laps in the dry and this being my first time here with the Superbike, we weren’t really sure of the direction to take with the set up for the race. I’m happy enough with the result today, given the difficulties we’ve faced so far this weekend with the weather conditions. I’d have preferred not to have lost a place on the last lap, but tenth in the race today is a reasonable start. Now I know the track a little better, and we have a clearer idea of what we need in terms of set up for the dry, so we will look to improve in tomorrow’s two races.”
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P4 – Championship P13 – 100 Points
“I was too close to the podium to be happy with today’s result! A few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be disappointed to finish fourth here at Magny-Cours, as it’s my best result at this track for a long time. It was a great race. In the beginning it was really tricky with the track and, as we have no experience with the YZF-R1 here at Magny-Cours, we only changed the set up a little bit after FP3 and it wasn’t perfect. It made the bike quite difficult to ride, especially in one sector where I lost the rear so many times. When Tom Sykes passed me, I tried everything to stay with him, to try something on the last lap, but then I nearly high-sided out of the 180 degree and wasn’t close enough. It’s a shame, but it’s still a fourth place and all the team are happy – maybe more than me – so we will try again for the podium tomorrow.”