Pata Yamaha Pull Out the Stops in a Wet Race 1 at Magny-Cours
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team secured two positive results after putting in maximum effort in tricky conditions on Saturday at Magny-Cours, round 11 of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship. Alex Lowes rode to a solid fifth-place finish in a wet Race 1, enjoying some superb battles along the way on a difficult drying track. His teammate Michael van der Mark had a crash on lap 2 but remounted and charged his way sensationally through the field to secure ninth at the chequered flag.
Lowes finished Friday's dry practice in ninth overall, but only two-tenths off his teammate in second in one of the closest opening days of the season. On Saturday morning, the rain poured down in Magny-Cours but Lowes used FP3 to find a good wet setup with his R1 and in SP2, in typical style, he pulled out a great lap to qualify in fifth for Race 1. The rain had stopped and the sun came out just before the race, although everyone stuck with wet tyres, but when the lights went out he did not have the best of starts and was in seventh and behind his teammate van der Mark by the first corner. Responding brilliantly, the 27-year-old enjoyed a great battle in the early laps with his teammate, passing him at Turn 5 on the second lap and not looking back. Next up was Leandro Mercado and then Chaz Davies as Lowes continued his charge through the field and made his way up to third by lap 6.
The damp track made conditions extremely tricky and Lowes battled hard, with first, Marco Melandri and then Leon Camier, before settling into fifth. Determined to secure a good result after a tricky weekend in Portimao, the British rider rode consistently well to bring his R1 home in a rather lonely fifth to secure 11 vital championship points, which means he remains fifth in the standings with 180 points. Lowes will start Sunday's Race 2 from the middle of the front row in second position and with the forecast saying it should be dry, he is hoping to be able to fight for his third podium of 2017.
For van der Mark, unfortunately, there was an issue in SP2 that meant he could not extract the maximum performance from his Pata Yamaha R1, which saw him qualify in tenth. When it came to the race, van der Mark had a blistering start, passing his teammate and moving up to sixth by Turn 1. He then passed Xavi Forés for fifth and became embroiled in an excellent battle with Lowes on the second lap. Passing each other a number of times, van der Mark just got on the throttle a little early attempting the cut back on his teammate at Turn 5 and lost the rear.
Luckily there was no major damage to his Pata Yamaha R1, with the 24-year-old managing to remount and re-joining the race, albeit in 19th place and five seconds behind the man ahead of him. Undeterred, the 2014 Supersport World Champion got his head down and started a sensational charge through the field that saw him overtake nine riders in the next six laps. With some clear track ahead of him, van der Mark settled into a good rhythm and focused on securing the best result possible. With four laps to go, he managed to catch and pass Chaz Davies for ninth to cap off a simply astounding comeback, in the process securing seven championship points. This result means he remains sixth in the overall standings with 173 points, seven behind his teammate and 17 ahead of Forés in seventh. Van der Mark will line up for Sunday's Race 2 on the second row in sixth, confident of his pace whether it is going to be wet or dry after his brilliant ride in Race 1 and the blistering pace he showed to finish Friday's practice sessions in second overall.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 5th +41.210
"The race was a strange one! It was getting drier and drier as the race went on, which made it very tricky. I have always struggled here at Magny-Cours in the wet, so I am pretty happy to have finished in fifth. I had a good battle with my teammate and a few riders at the start, but then it became quite a lonely race towards the end. That can actually be harder than battling in a group in the wet, so I just focused on being as consistent as possible. I hope the sun comes out for tomorrow's race but whatever happens, I will be ready to give it everything from the front row!"
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 9th +1:09.271
"We had a bit of an issue in SP2 which meant I could not go as fast as I would have liked, so I had to start from tenth on the grid. Luckily, we found out what the problem was and I had a pretty good start during the race. I passed a few guys straight away but I was struggling on corner exit with the rear spinning. I thought it was because the tyres needed to warm up but after 3 laps it was still an issue and into the hairpin, I was a bit too aggressive and lost the rear. It was a small crash, luckily, the bike was okay but I had to comeback from pretty much last place! I had a good feeling with the bike but with the rear spinning, I could not make any speed. I had to fight back from 19th and was making progress lap after lap, catching quite a lot of people, so I am happy to have finished in ninth after a crash. We just need to find some improvements in the setup because I feel really good but could not make up any time coming out of the corners. Hopefully, tomorrow will be dry and I will get to start from the second row, plus I was fast in the dry on Friday. It will be challenging for everybody because no one has really done a long run, but I am looking forward to Race 2 whether it is wet or dry!"
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"A wet race at Magny-Cours is always very challenging, there is so little grip, demonstrated by the fact the lap times were around 20 seconds slower than in the dry. It makes it very complicated for the riders to understand how hard to push. There were so many accidents in FP3 and qualifying earlier, our guys did well to come through the sessions and qualify in strong positions for the first race. Following a disappointing Portimao weekend, Alex needed to finish well without taking unnecessary risks and, he rode a very strong, solid race after a great battle with Michael in the first couple of laps to finish in fifth and score good positive points. The mistake Michael made at Turn 5 is a very easy one to do but we were fortunate that the R1 was relatively unscathed and that Michael was able to pick the bike up and mount such a positive charge through the field. It was a very unusual race, it is not often that the gaps are so big, but let's hope there is the chance of some dry weather for tomorrow so that Pata Yamaha and the whole WorldSBK grid can ride to the limits and put on a show!"