Pata Yamaha Push Hard on Friday at Laguna Seca
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team kicked off Round 8 of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship on Friday at Laguna Seca. Full of confidence following on from his victory in Race 2 at Brno, Alex Lowes set a 1:23.687 to end the day in seventh on the combined timesheets, 0.583s off the fastest rider, to automatically make it through to SP2 on Saturday. His teammate Michael van der Mark made a solid start, ending Friday in 11th overall with a 1:24.106 and he will battle it out in SP1.
Near perfect conditions greeted the Pata Yamaha team on Friday at Laguna Seca with the California sun sending track temperatures rising to 43°C as they looked to continue the form that has seen them win three of the last four WorldSBK races, despite the Laguna track traditionally not having been the happiest hunting ground for the R1 in the past.
Lowes got off to a strong start in the morning's FP1, showing the confidence that comes with having secured his maiden WorldSBK victory at the last round in the Czech Republic, the 27-year-old British rider ending the session in fifth after setting a 1:23.979. As the temperature rose, so did Lowes' pace, and he improved to a 1:23.837 in FP2 to move up to fourth overall. In the afternoon's FP3 session, he once again made another step, setting a 1:23.687 as he focused on finding a good rhythm for the race. This saw Lowes end Friday in seventh overall and make it through automatically to SP2, happy with the work completed and confident there is more to come on Saturday.
Van der Mark arrived in the USA on the back of an incredible run of results that has seen him record two victories, a second-place, and a fourth-place finish in the last four races. Building his rhythm in the usual methodical manner in the morning session, the 25-year-old Dutch rider ended FP1 in seventh with a 1:24.106. Focusing on race pace in FP2, he showed good consistency although he did not improve his time from the morning, ending the session in tenth overall. In FP3, he tried a variety of different setups but couldn't quite find the perfect feeling with his Pata Yamaha R1, ending the day in 11th on the combined timesheets with his time set during FP1. Disappointed at missing out on automatic qualification to Saturday's SP2, Van der Mark is determined to make use of the extra track time he will get during SP1 to allow him to make a step before Race 1.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action on Saturday at 9:00 am local time (GMT-7) for FP4, with qualifying starting at 11:00 and the 25-lap Race 1 at 2:00 pm.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 7th - 1:23.687
"It was a good Friday. We got through a lot of work. Obviously, you always want to be a bit quicker, you want the feeling to be a bit better but we managed to highlight a couple of the key areas we want to improve so we will take a look tonight and try and make some steps for FP4 in the morning. I feel really good, I am really enjoying riding the bike, I am just a little bit off where I want to be percentage wise to allow me to be comfortable, especially tipping the bike into the faster corners. If we can work on that, I think we can have a really strong race. It was a good day and I am looking forward to tomorrow!"
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 11th - 1:24.106
"We struggled a bit today. This morning did not feel too bad, we had a small problem with the stability of the bike and also tried out some different gearing solutions. For FP2, we made some changes and although I didn't improve my pace, I still managed to do quite a good long run. The feeling wasn't really what I need, so for FP3 we changed a lot again, but we didn't find a solution. We have lots of data to study overnight so hopefully, we can find something that will allow us to make a step tomorrow."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"We anticipated that Laguna Seca was going to bring us some challenges after the recent successes at Donington Park and Brno and sure enough, this very technical and difficult circuit created some issues for both riders and the crew today. Alex has looked very neat and tidy all day, riding very accurately and producing fast, consistent times. We are still missing a few tenths but for him, the R1 is working better than it ever has at Laguna and we are confident that further steps can be taken tomorrow. Michael has had a tough day and has not been able to improve on his FP1 performance which is quite unusual. There are always a number of factors involved to consider. The crew and Michael himself will be studying the data hard to find the best forward in terms of bike setting and how also he can improve. It is always great to be in California racing at Laguna Seca and as a team, we are looking forward to the first race tomorrow!"