Challenging Friday for Pata Yamaha at Laguna Seca
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team put in a determined performance on Friday at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for round eight of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship. Both riders put in the effort under the scorching California sun with Alex Lowes ending the day eighth overall on the combined timesheets to make it through directly to SP2, whilst his teammate Michael van der Mark improved late on to finish in 13th place.
Lowes likes the Laguna Seca circuit and started off the day full of confidence following his second podium of the season last time out at Misano. In near perfect conditions the 26-year-old British rider started steadily in FP1, setting a 1:24.635 towards the end of the session that saw him eighth fastest, 1.210s off the pace of the man at the top. Two red flags, one at the start of the session and one right at the end, disrupted his efforts in FP2 as Lowes focused on improving the front-end feel with his R1 but his hard work paid off as he improved to a 1:24.330 just before the second red flag came out. When the session re-started, there was just three minutes to go and Lowes was pushing hard to improve his time further. Unfortunately, a crash at turn 3 saw his chances of improving disappear but he walked away unhurt and ended the day eighth overall on the combined timesheets, 0.905s behind the leader. This means Lowes heads straight through to SP2 tomorrow morning.
Van der Mark arrived at Laguna Seca looking to build on his excellent performances at Misano that saw him lead for the majority of Race 1 before a tyre failure, and then a fine fourth place finish in Race 2. In FP1 the 24-year-old Dutch rider struggled to find a good feeling with his R1 on corner entry but he got his head down and worked hard, improving his time throughout the session to set a 1:25.280 on his penultimate lap that saw him finish in 14th place. In the afternoon, van der Mark tried a number of setup options with his team to improve the feeling with his R1 but unfortunately, just as he appeared to be finding his rhythm, the second red flag came out. When the action resumed, van der Mark gave it everything in an effort to break into the top ten and secure his place automatically in SP2, but despite knocking over half a second off his best time to set a 1:24.755, he had to settle for 13th place overall and a spot in SP1.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team are back in action in Laguna Seca on Saturday at 9am local time for Free Practice 3, with SP1 scheduled for 11:00am, SP2 11:25am and the 25-lap Race 1 due to start at 14:00pm.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 8th 1:24.330
"Today we struggled to find a good feeling with the bike. It was frustrating, as last year we were quick here but at the moment I am not feeling comfortable on the bike, especially on corner entry. At Laguna Seca, if you don't have confidence with the bike it can make it really hard to push for a fast time. I had a small crash at the end when I was pushing, but I am fine and it didn't really affect anything. We were working in the right direction towards the end of the session and I was improving my times. We have some work to do overnight, we will look at the data and do everything we can to allow us to make a step tomorrow. I am looking forward to getting back out on track tomorrow and hopefully being able to fight more towards the front."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 13th 1:24.775
"It has been a difficult day. I spent the first couple of laps getting used to the track on the R1. After that, we found ourselves struggling all day with the same problem, to be honest, the feeling of the bike on corner entry. It was difficult because we tried many things but we just could not find the right direction. After the second red flag, we had one flying lap and I pushed as hard as I could to try and make it through to SP2 and although I improved, it didn't quite work out. We have to understand why the changes we are making are not working at the moment and we will study the data overnight. If we can get the bike turning tomorrow it will be a lot better and I will be trying my hardest to improve."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"It has been one of the toughest Friday's of the season so far here at Laguna Seca. The R1 worked quite well here last year and I believe the team and both riders were expecting an easier transition from Misano to this circuit than we have experienced today. Both riders are struggling in the same areas and despite the best efforts of Yamaha's engineers and the team, we haven't managed to make as big a step forward as we would have liked. Alex suffered a front-end crash while pushing hard at the end of the session as he tried to improve his lap time, adding to a number of crashes at the very flat profile turns 3 and 4. He is physically okay and it didn't really have any negative effect on our preparations for tomorrow. Michael managed to improve his lap time significantly at the end of the session, but it is also still not where he would like to be following the run of form he showed in Misano. It is going to be a long night this evening as we very carefully try and understand what we can improve, using all of the tools we have at our disposal in the pit box, and we will be making our best efforts to get the Pata Yamaha R1 a lot closer to the front tomorrow."