Solid Opening Day for van der Mark and Lowes in Portimão
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team riders enjoyed a solid start to Round 10 of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão today. Michael van der Mark proved fast and consistent in all three of the practice sessions today, ending in eighth position overall despite a minor crash at turn five late in the afternoon. Alex Lowes ended the day one place further down the order, securing ninth place on combined times after making a long run in the final free practice session.
Already a technical and demanding track, mastering the 4.6km Portimão circuit was complicated further today by high temperatures, with conditions changing significantly for each of the three 40-minute free practice sessions.
Van der Mark adapted quickly to the changing conditions, impressing with his consistent pace throughout free practice. If the 25-year-old Dutch rider can increase his outright pace to secure a starting position on the front two rows of the grid then he is confident that this consistency will pay dividends in tomorrow's 20-lap WorldSBK race, which will be held during the hottest part of the day.
Lowes is also confident of improving on his lap time ahead of qualifying tomorrow, after focussing today on increasing both his feeling and confidence with the front of his YZF-R1. The British rider, who celebrated his 28th birthday today in Portimão, also spent time working to improve his speed through the sections of the circuit where changes in both elevation and camber combine to make things tricky, especially when the temperature rises and grip levels fall. Lowes posted his fastest time during today's final free practice session to finish the day ninth on combined times.
Van der Mark and Lowes will be back on track for the fourth and final free practice session at 08.45 local time tomorrow morning, with Superpole 2 scheduled to get underway in much warmer conditions at 10.55.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - P8 - 1:42.557
"The result today is not really where we should be because, when I went out with the new tyres in the last session I crashed at turn five and wasn't able to improve my lap time. The track changed quite a lot for the three sessions today, as the temperature increased, and while we weren't the fastest in any of the sessions we were really consistent, which is important looking forward to tomorrow's race. I am pretty sure that I can improve my lap time further on new tyres tomorrow, but for me the most important thing is that we are consistently fast and, if we can find a few tenths tomorrow, then we'll definitely be ready to race."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - P9 - 1:42.669
"Today we focused on what we need for tomorrow's race, rather than chasing a fast lap time. I'm a little bit slower than I want to be at the moment, but this is a very technical track, with a lot of changes in both elevation and camber and very tricky, so I've also been working to find a good rhythm on the bike. We need to find another two or three tenths tomorrow to be happy, but the biggest issue at the moment is in mid-corner and coming off the exit, so that's something we'll look into tonight. I managed to do a longer run on race tyres in the final session this afternoon and I felt good, so we're getting there. Now I just need to keep calm, carry on working with my crew and keep chipping away to find further improvements ready for the race."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - Team Principal
"Autumn hasn't yet found its way to the Algarve and it's been a hot day's work for both riders and crew today. Michael has carried on where he left off in the test, making step-by-step improvements and showing an extremely impressive level of consistency and overall pace. We missed the opportunity to make a more special final lap time with Michael after a very small crash in turn five towards the end of FP3, but aside from that the day was pretty much flawless and Michael and his YZF-R1 look in good shape to be very competitive in the race tomorrow. Alex had a less easy day - while there were some very positive results in the test, he and his crew were still left searching for more front end feeling and confidence and it took them until FP3 to make a good step forward in that department. Alex managed to make a longer run then and, despite a lot of bad luck in the last few laps with traffic, improved his lap time enough to show some positive signals for tomorrow, so we're hopeful to have both YZF-R1 machines at the sharp end of the field."