Solid Opening Day in Qatar for Yamaha WorldSBK Riders
It proved a solid opening day in Qatar for Yamaha's WorldSBK racers, with four of the five R1's finishing inside the top-ten. It was Pata Yamaha WorldSBK with Rizla rider Michael van der Mark who led the way, with the 26-year-old Dutchman ending the day fifth on combined times. Alex Lowes finished two places further back in seventh, but just two-tenths off the time of his teammate. GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider Sandro Cortese was ninth and Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider Loris Baz rounded out the top-ten.
The Pata Yamaha with Rizla riders started strongly in this afternoon's opening free practice, with van der Mark third and Lowes fourth as the sun started to set at the end of the 50-minute session. Van der Mark and Lowes were looking for further improvements under the floodlights in FP2 but, while both posted faster lap times, neither made the step forward they were expecting.
Both riders are confident of finding further improvements ahead of WorldSBK Race 1 tomorrow, in which they'll resume their battle for third place in the championship standings.
GRT Yamaha's Cortese posted the fifth fastest time in this afternoon's first free practice, with the reigning Supersport World Champion then going on to do a race simulation in this evening second session, which he finished in ninth place. While Cortese was happy with his opening day performance the same wasn't true for his teammate Marco Melandri, who once again struggled to find a good feeling with the bike and was frustrated to finish only 14th on combined times.
Baz was happy to suffer no pain from the hand he injured last time out in Argentina, but the Frenchman was still hampered today by the ribs bruised in the same crash, making it difficult for him to move freely on the bike. The Ten Kate Yamaha rider is confident, however, that his physical condition will be improved tomorrow after a further night's rest.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK with Rizla - P5 - 1'58.157
"Today has been quite good. We spent the first session getting back up to speed and I had quite a good pace at the end, despite struggling a little bit with the front feeling, so I was happy enough with that. We made some changes ahead of FP2 looking for an improvement, but they didn't really work as we were expecting, and we need to have a think about which direction we go in ahead of FP3 tomorrow. We don't need much, as my pace is pretty good already, it's more about making the bike a little less demanding to ride. If we can do that in FP3 then we'll be ready to race."
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK with Rizla - P7 - 1'58.303
"At some circuits, maybe wrongly, you expect to feel good and for me Qatar is one of those tracks, because I've always gone well here in the past. But today I was missing a little bit the feeling with the bike. This evening in the second session the plan was to do a longer run, but I cut it short because the pace wasn't quick enough, it was better to come in, make some changes and try to find a direction for tomorrow rather than continue. That was a little frustrating, but it was the right thing to do because it gives us more time to get the set up right for the first race. It was good to get a lot of track time on a Friday again, as it was limited at the last two races because of the conditions and the guys normally make a good step with the bike at the end of the first day. I'm quite confident for tomorrow, this is a track I really enjoy and I'm looking forward to racing here again."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P9 - 1'58.503
"Today has been very positive for us. We started strongly, posting the fifth quickest time in FP1, and we built on that this evening in the second free practice with a good race simulation. So, I leave the circuit tonight happy with the progress we made and looking forward to tomorrow. The speed is there and I think we're in a good position going into qualifying and the first race."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P14 - 1'59.032
"For me it's a case of different circuit, same issues. I just can't seem to adapt my riding style to the bike or the bike to my riding style. Mentally it's quite draining because, no matter what we try, the issues seem to remain the same. It's not easy, but we will continue to work towards a solution but with this being my last race before retirement, realistically, we're running out of time."
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P10 - 1'58.566
"I had no pain in the hand I injured in Argentina today, which is positive, but the chest was as painful I was expecting, making it really difficult to move around the bike. It means I can't ride how I really want to, but we can work with that. My pace in FP1 was good and then in FP2 we went a little bit in the wrong direction with the electronics and I didn't ride particularly well either. So, we didn't improve, but we did make a lot of laps on the tyre to understand better the race pace and the tyre endurance for tomorrow, so a good day overall. Tomorrow we'll try to improve the lap time, make a strong race and, hopefully, have a bit less pain from the chest after a good night's sleep."