Lowes Makes Masterful Comeback in Aragon as van der Mark Impresses
Pata Yamaha World Superbike Team's Alex Lowes defied a challenging start to today to rise up and make a strong comeback, taking a fine fourth position in the first of the two FIM Motul World Superbike Championship races this weekend at the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain. Teammate Michael van der Mark was also on point, building on his seventh place grid start to cross the line in fifth behind Lowes.
After experiencing an unfortunate bike wrecking crash in FP3 on a cold and windy track, Superpole 2 also proved a disappointing experience for Lowes. A technical issue on the opening lap meant the session came to a premature end and delivered no qualifying time. As a result, the young Brit squared up from 12th on the grid for race one of the Aragon weekend on a freshly rebuilt, but untested bike.
If the morning's adversities achieved anything, it was to raise the Pata Yamaha rider's race game even further. A consistent few opening laps were passed to find confidence before an impressive charge began, Lowes gradually picking off one competitor after another until reaching his teammate in fifth. With less than 0.2 seconds between them, the duel ran until Lowes made a successful pass on the brakes going in to turn one with five laps remaining. With fifth secured, a late crash by frontrunner Chaz Davies then promoted Lowes to fourth, which he held to the line.
Michael van der Mark's first European Superpole session of the 2017 season showed a further display of his consistent weekend pace, the Dutchman gradually chipping away at the lap times to deliver a 1'50.422 and secure seventh on the grid. He then made an impressively aggressive start to the race, holding his own in the pack and pushing on to chase Xavi Forés and secure fifth position. Van der Marks pace was good enough to be uncatchable by all of the following pack with the exception of his teammate Lowes, who had to work hard over several laps to make the pass. Davies crash in the final lap meant van der Mark crossed the finish line in fifth.
The race results deliver a double front row start for tomorrow's second Aragon WorldSBK race; Lowes takes pole position with van der Mark in second spot.
Alex Lowes - 4th +9.962s
"I'm happy with the first race. Its always hard starting from 12th position, the first few corners are quite tight here and I wasn't very confident after a little crash this morning because of the cold and the wind, so it took me a little bit to get going. We were a bit unlucky with Superpole so my first proper lap of the day was actually the first lap of the race. Once I got going I think I made a solid race, the bike was great and if we'd started from the front I think we would have had a chance to fight for the podium today. Anyway it was a good finish, my team did a really amazing job for me and well try again tomorrow."
Michael van der Mark - 5th, +12.302s
"I think of course you want to beat your teammate but it's really positive that we are close together again. It was a nice race, we found a couple of tenths compared to yesterday which is good and finishing fifth and fourth is something really good for the team, it shows progress. Of course I'm not happy finishing fifth but I'm happy we are making good progress with the R1 and as I said yesterday I'm feeling so much better on the bike since the first time I came here to test. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, we are both on the front row so it's going to be really interesting."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"Fourth and fifth position in today's first race mirrors our best finish of the year so far, but especially for Alex it was achieved in a very complicated way which makes the result even more pleasing. Alex will fully admit he made a small mistake on the first lap of free practice this morning a simple crash resulted in a destroyed Pata Yamaha R1 that couldn't be repaired in time for qualifying. Then unfortunately on the first lap of qualifying a technical fault with his spare machine meant that coming in to the race today we had not a single timed lap under our belts. To approach the race on a rebuilt machine in such a calm manner and to come through the field with such good pace establishes Alexs credentials and that of the 2017 R1 World Superbike. All credit is due also to the fantastic job his crew did deliver a race ready bike in such a short space of time.
Michael has not quite had the natural feeling or pace that he was able to generate in Thailand but he and his crew have worked consistently and relentlessly to find a solution and he repaid them with an aggressive start and a very strong race performance. The result gives us pole position and second on the grid for tomorrows race - looking at the pace today we're hoping we can get involved with our best competitors!"