Nothing to Separate Lowes & van der Mark on Friday in Aragon
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team got off to a positive start on Friday in Aragon at Round 3 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship despite mixed weather conditions. Alex Lowes ended the day in sixth overall on the combined timesheets after making the most of the dry track time available in FP3 before the rain returned to set a 1:51.347, 0.695s off the fastest rider. Incredibly, this was exactly the same time as his teammate Michael van der Mark's fastest lap set in FP2, with both riders making it through to Saturday's SP2.
It was mission accomplished for the Pata Yamaha team on Friday at Motorland Aragon, as Early rain meant that FP1 was held on a wet track and then the showers returned 10 minutes into FP3, with FP2 the only fully dry session. After the stifling heat and humidity in Thailand at the last round, the changeable conditions that greeted the team in Spain were quite a change. The rain showers made it hard for everyone to find a good setup and meant that the first priority for the team was to ensure both riders made it through to Superpole 2 on Saturday, a target that was successfully achieved.
Lowes is aiming to continue the podium form that saw him finish in a superb third place in Race 2 at Buriram, but having received a number of updates in Buriram, it was important he got track time with his Pata Yamaha R1 to find the best setup for the Motorland Aragon track. Unfortunately, a wet FP1 meant that he did not get the dry track time desired, with the 27-year-old British rider ending the session in ninth with a 2:04.827 (+2.549s). By the time FP2 came around, the sun was shining and the track was dry, with Lowes setting a 1:51.727 (+1.075s) as he started to settle into a rhythm. FP3 began dry, but with ominous storm clouds appearing in the sky, the 2013 British Superbike Champion knew he didn't have much time before the rain came. He went out right at the start of the session pushing hard, improving to a 1:51.347 - amazingly matching his teammate's time from FP2 exactly - to end the day sixth overall on the combined timesheets, 0.695s off Marco Melandri, ready to battle in SP2 on Saturday.
Van der Mark was another looking to carry his stunning podium momentum from the previous round to Aragon after he stormed to second in Race 2 in Thailand. The 25-year-old Dutch rider was quick straight away in the wet conditions of FP1, battling in the top three for most of the session before ending it in fifth place with a 2:03.427. The dry conditions that greeted everyone for FP2 also saw him hit the ground running, setting a 1:51.347 - his fastest time of the day - and impressing once again. While trying to work on the perfect setup for Saturday's qualifying and race, he only managed five laps in FP3 before the rain came, with his time from FP2 seeing him end the day in seventh due to his second fastest lap time being slower than his teammate Lowes. The 2014 WorldSSP Champion knows there is work to do still but is confident of being able to fight at the front on Saturday.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action at Motorland Aragon at 8:45 am local time (CEST) on Saturday morning for FP4, with SP2 scheduled for 10:55 am and the 18-lap Race 1 due to start at 1 pm.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 6th - 1:51.347
"To be honest, my feeling with the bike has been quite tough today. I don't feel as good as I expected and I was just a bit too slow for where I want to be. I have a few areas I want to improve tomorrow and I am looking forward to trying to change the bike a bit, improve the feeling and have a really good race on Saturday. It is important for us to build on our momentum from Phillip Island and Thailand. We have had quite a few upgrades at the last round, as well as at the start of the season, and that fact, plus the new regulations, make Friday quite stressful for us because we have not been able to test here with the new regulations so we are having to start from scratch. Also, with the weather today we lost quite a bit of track time, which can make it hard work but, as I said, we have areas to improve so while my pace was a bit slow today, let's see what we can do tomorrow!"
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 7th - 1:51.347
"I am really happy as this morning the track was wet and straight from the start we were fast. We improved lap by lap and it was good to do a wet session with the bike and get the feeling with our setup. FP2 was completely dry and, once again, I felt really good from the start. Then I had a point where I struggled a bit but at the end, we put some fresh tyres on and I improved a lot, although I was still struggling a bit to get the bike stopped. We tried to improve the feeling in this area in FP3, but we only managed a few laps and I didn't feel any better, so, we have a lot of work to do and it will be hard to be completely ready for tomorrow as we only have a short session in the morning. If you looked how we managed to start every session today and be quick right from the word go, I think we can be quite happy!"
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"From the heat and humidity of Thailand to arriving to snow here at Aragon on Wednesday was quite a contrast and the poor European weather has affected all the team's setup work today. Nonetheless, we are relatively satisfied with what we have achieved. Michael was particularly comfortable in the wet and immediately fast in FP2 in the dry. Alex struggled a little bit more with the balance of his R1 in the dry FP2 but even in the very limited amount of laps before the rain came in FP3, he managed significant improvements and, more importantly, improved his own confidence and feedback from the bike. It's going to be an interesting Race 1 tomorrow. Effectively there is a completely meaningless FP4 at 8:45 am tomorrow morning, a couple of laps in SP2, then we race. In this kind of situation, it is a massive challenge for the team and the engineers to take the limited amount of data they have and give the riders the best bike they can for Race 1. As I say, it is challenging but we believe at Pata Yamaha that we have got a very good base machine and we can be up amongst the front-runners both in qualifying and the race tomorrow."