Lowes Delivers Sensational Donington Comeback for Maiden Yamaha Podium
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Teams Alex Lowes produced the ride of his season so far to secure his maiden podium for the team in race one at Donington Park, round six of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship. The British rider put on a sensational comeback for the home fans after he was forced wide at the first corner, pulling off overtake after overtake to recover from 22nd place and cross the line in an incredible third. His teammate Michael van der Mark also rode superbly as he charged from 11th on the grid to secure a top five finish.
Lowes lives 10 minutes away from the Donington Park track and it was where he got his first taste of road racing, therefore it was fitting that it was the scene for one of his best ever rides. Starting from fourth, another rider made contact with him heading into the first corner, forcing Lowes wide and almost off the track. The British rider was down in 22nd, right at the back of the field, but instead of letting the situation get the better of him, the 26-year-old got his head down and started picking off riders one by one.
On lap three he had made his way up to 18th, then he put the hammer down, lapping over a second quicker than the riders in front of him. His charge continued into the points having passed another three riders and Lowes was soon battling for the top ten. With four laps to go he moved up to sixth, then one lap later he passed his teammate for fifth. A rider ahead of him crashed out, promoting him to fourth and the podium was on. When he crossed the line to start the last lap Marco Melandri was 1.2s ahead of him in third, but Lowes somehow managed to bring this gap down to less than half a second in the first two sectors. Then a mistake from Melandri left the door open and Lowes blasted past to claim his first ever podium for the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, crossing the line in third to top off a simply remarkable comeback and sending the home fans wild.
His teammate van der Mark got a solid start from 11th on the grid and immediately settled into a good rhythm. The Dutch rider was up to ninth by the end of the first lap and producing his usual consistent lap times, he also pulled off some stunning overtaking manoeuvres to fight his way through the pack. By lap eight he was in sixth and he started to hunt down Tati Mercado in fifth, eventually catching and passing him a few laps later. When his teammate Lowes came past him with three laps to go, he valiantly fought back, but eventually had to concede the position. Determined for the best result possible van der Mark managed to keep pushing right to the end, securing a hard-fought fifth position.
The 16 points Lowes collected now sees him fifth in the championship table with 110 points, closing the gap to Melandri in fourth to just 27 points, and he will start Sundays race two from seventh on the grid. Van der Mark's result delivered 11 championship points and sees the 23-year-old seventh in the championship standings with 89 points, having closed the gap to the rider in sixth to just one point. He will start race two from the middle of the front row.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team
It is always fantastic to race in front of the home fans, it is the only chance we get in the year so I wanted to do something special! I thought it had all gone wrong at the first corner as someone hit me from the inside and I nearly went off the track. I thought, Oh no! But I managed to stay calm, and stay focused. From then on it was one of the most enjoyable races I have ever had, because I was passing people for the whole 23 laps, so the race felt really short. The R1 was great, I enjoyed it a lot. We got a bit of good luck on the last lap when Marco Melandri made a mistake and we managed to get on the podium. It is nothing more than the team deserves, they work so hard and I am really happy to have been able to give something back to them. I expected to be the next fastest guy after the championship leaders, that is where I have been lately when I have a good feeling with the bike, I knew I could keep my pace until the end of the race. It is one of the strengths we have had all year, being strong at the end of the race, we have just been too far behind from the start. I thought that would be the case today, but obviously, it worked out better! I am looking forward to tomorrow and we will see what we can do in race two. We have all been riding this weekend in Nicky Haydens memory and I was actually hoping today, when I was sliding the rear so much after the tyres went off, that he would have approved.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team
We must be happy with the result, especially after starting from 11th on the grid. On Friday we had quite a good pace and we knew we could be in the top five. The start was not really what I wanted, but I recovered and had a good first lap and step-by-step I started to overtake people. My pace was really consistent, but I was not really happy with the feeling, I struggled with the front, so I found a safe pace and kept pushing. I was getting close to Melandri, but not close enough, and then Alex passed me and I tried to hold on to him, but I had to go over the limit so I decided to focus on my race and finish in P5. Alexs podium was amazing, it was a really good result for the team. I hope tomorrow I can get the feeling from Friday back and also be in the fight for the podium.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
Alex said directly after the race that it was the best ride of his career, and it is very difficult to argue with that! After the first turn incident, he was last going down Craner Curves, which is never a good situation to be in, but he displayed great patience in dealing with the traffic at the start of the race. All these guys are fast, it is not a question of simply riding past your competitors, they all deserve respect and they are all pushing hard. So, to make so many passes and then to display such fantastic pace in the middle of the race, matching the two front runners who were fighting for the win, was truly impressive. By keeping his focus and pushing so hard Alex was able to secure a superbly well-deserved podium at our home race. Alex has been working hard this year on his consistency, his feedback, and on his professionalism and step-by-step that approach has been rewarded and everybody in the Pata Yamaha Team couldnt be happier for him.
Equally, Michael rode a great race. He is super consistent, made some great passes and kept under control and stayed calm after Alex passed him towards the end, which is always a challenge because a top rider like Michael always wants to beat his teammate. Fifth place was a solid result and he starts from second on the grid tomorrow and with some improvements to his R1, in particular front tyre choice, he has a good chance of an even better performance in race two.