Strong Start for Pata Yamaha on Friday in Brno
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team got off to a positive start on Friday at Round 7 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship in Brno despite a number of red flags and a wet FP1. Alex Lowes showed good pace throughout the day and ended up fifth on the combined timesheets after FP3 with a 1:59.917, 0.514s off the top. There was hardly anything to separate him from his teammate Michael van der Mark, who was just 0.061s further back in seventh after setting a 1:59.978 to finish Friday in seventh, with both riders securing their places automatically in Saturday's SP2.
The forecast for the day was 28°C and thunderstorms at the Automotodrom Brno and heavy rain before FP1 saw the session declared wet before the circuit dried and the sun returned for the rest of the day with track temperatures rising to 40°C. WorldSBK returns to the Brno track for the first time since 2012 and to prepare, the Pata Yamaha team conducted a private two-day test at the circuit after Assen, although with the circuit conditions vastly different today, further adjustments were required to find the best performance for the R1's.
In the tricky conditions of FP1, with a wet but drying track, Lowes got off to a solid start, ending the 40-minute session in eighth with a 2:11.054. The track was completely dry by the time FP2 came around and Lowes wasted no time in getting down to work with slick tyres to set a 1.59.7 - discounted due to touching the green run-off onto the finish straight - and then a 1:59.917 and move up to fourth overall. In FP3, the 27-year-old British rider worked hard on his race pace before a red flag towards the end of the session saw most riders fit fresh rubber to set a flying lap. Lowes maturely instead decided to focus on his feeling with used tyres in an effort to improve his performance towards the end of the race, showing excellent consistency although he did not improve his time. His best lap from FP2 was good enough to see him end the day in fifth overall and the 2013 British Superbike Champion heads into Saturday confident in his pace and knowing there is more to come.
Fresh from his historic double victory last time out at Donington, his teammate van der Mark eased himself into proceedings in FP1 with not much to be learnt in the mixed conditions - the 25-year-old Dutch rider ended the session in 16th with a 2:13.704. Conditions were almost perfect for FP2 and the 2014 WorldSSP Champion improved to a 2:00.243 to end the session in tenth, despite not having the best confidence in the front end of his Pata Yamaha R1. The team made some setup changes during FP3 that saw van der Mark's feeling improve towards the end of the session, leaving it late to set a 1:59.978 to finish Friday in seventh on the combined timesheets, 0.575s off the top and securing his place alongside his teammate in Saturday's SP2.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action on Saturday at 8:45 am local time (CEST) for Free Practice 4, with SP2 due to start at 10:30 am and the 18-lap Race 1 scheduled for 1:00 pm.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 5th - 1:59.917
"I felt pretty good today! We tried a lot of setting options on the bike, even if the sessions were quite interrupted by some red flags and a few small issues. We didn't use new tyres in FP3, so I think we are in a stronger position than it looks on the timesheets, which is nice. I feel good on the bike, the R1 flows well around here - I really enjoy this track and I am looking forward to tomorrow!"
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 7th - 1:59.978
"FP1 was in mixed conditions, so it was good to go out but there was nothing we could really learn. I struggled with the feeling with the front end in FP2 and I did not have a lot of confidence. This carried into the start of FP3 but we made a big change to the bike and I finally got my confidence back with the front and when stopping the bike. I was happy with that and we now just need to focus on trying to find some more rear grip on corner entry and exit. I am happy to have made it into SP2 but feel we still have some work to do!"
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"It is great that WorldSBK is back in Brno, it's a beautiful circuit and a very nice part of the world. Even on Friday, there have been some enthusiastic fans around so, hopefully, it is going to be an exciting return for WorldSBK to the circuit. Today was a little bit compromised by the weather and also the dry conditions were quite different to the recent test in terms of temperature and humidity, so it has been quite difficult to transfer the information we previously learnt. The top riders are all very close on rhythm but at this moment, Jonathan looks like he has something in his pocket compared to everyone else. The plan for tomorrow is to consolidate everything that has been learnt today, close the gap to him, and look forward to a big fight for the podium on Saturday afternoon!"