The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s 2018 FIM World Superbike Championship campaign came to a premature conclusion in Qatar this evening, when WorldSBK Race 2 was cancelled on safety grounds shortly before the scheduled start. The news brought the curtain down on the team’s most successful WorldSBK season to date, during which Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes racked up three race wins and a total of 14 podium finishes between them.
Van der Mark and Lowes were met by high winds, a sandstorm and then torrential rain as they arrived at the Losail International Circuit for the final race day of the 2018 season. The adverse weather saw a delay to the race program, with the WorldSBK riders taking to the track for 15 minutes of warm-up more than 90 minutes later than scheduled.
Following the session concerns were raised by the riders about the track conditions, which resulted in a further delay to the program as circuit staff worked to disperse the water running across the track in several areas.
Following the WorldSSP race, which was shortened from 15 to 12 laps, the safety commission made the decision to cancel WorldSBK Race 2, due to standing water on the track and after taking into account the differences in power and tyres of WorldSBK and WorldSSP machines.
The cancellation of the final race of the 2018 season meant van der Mark missed the chance, albeit an outside one, to challenge for second place in the championship standings, but the Pata Yamaha rider was happy to finish third, which exceeded the expectations he had at the start of the year.
For Lowes, whose speed and consistency in Qatar was impressive throughout the weekend, the cancellation of Race 2 meant he lost the opportunity to add another podium finish to the one he secured yesterday in Race 1 when he took a hard fought third place. The Pata Yamaha rider ended the season sixth in the championship standings with 248 points.
While Qatar marks the end of the 2018 FIM World Superbike season the work doesn’t stop for the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team. The team head to Spain next month, where van der Mark and Lowes will commence their build up to the 2019 season.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – Championship Position – 3rd – 333 Points
“It was absolutely the right decision to cancel Race 2 today. Our championship was already decided and the track conditions weren’t getting any better, especially turn 15 where there was a lot of standing water. It’s a shame to end the season in the pit box, but safety must come first. We set some goals at the start of the year, to fight for podiums, to fight for a win and to finish top five in the championship. We’ve done all of that and more and I’m really happy to have ended the season third in the championship. The team can be proud of their achievements this year, because we’ve improved a lot and had both riders winning races and finishing on the podium. Now we need to continue to work, looking for further improvements so that we come back even stronger in 2019.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team – Championship Position – 6th – 248 Points
“After the podium finish yesterday I was a bit disappointed to miss out on the opportunity of fighting for another today, but safety must always come first. There has certainly been highpoints for me this season. In WorldSBK I got my first race win and first pole position this year and winning for a third consecutive time at Suzuka was also pretty special. However, there is some frustration as well, because at times I felt like I wasn’t able to ride how I wanted to. But we started and finished the season strongly and we know exactly where we need to improve. I’m looking forward to getting down to winter testing, working to up my game and returning even stronger next year. Well done to Michael on finishing in the top three in the championship and congratulations to the team.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK – Team Principal
“A really unfortunate and strange end to the season, but the only logical decision. As a team, despite the disappointment of the race being cancelled, we fully support the decision of the safety commission. Overall we have to say it’s been a good year for Pata Yamaha and Yamaha’s WorldSBK project. The target at the start of the season was continued improvement, to win a race, which we’ve managed to do three times, and to put one of the bikes in the top three of the championship and the other in the top six. We achieved those targets, but missed out on some consistency of performance at certain tracks and it’s clear where we need to improve. Continuing with the same two riders for next season makes it easier to make the next steps forward and we’re already looking forward to winter testing and some interesting developments coming from Yamaha. Thanks to Yamaha Motor Europe, to Pata, to Rizla, to all our sponsors and partners, to our incredibly hardworking team and, of course, to our two very talented riders.”