Pata Yamaha Battle Hard in Race 1 at Aragon
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team fought valiantly during a two-part Race 1 at Aragon on Saturday at Round 3 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship. Michael van der Mark backed up his pace in the mixed conditions on Friday by qualifying in ninth. In the original race, he didn't enjoy the best of starts but was on a charge when the red flag came out on lap 4. In the restarted race, he showed excellent consistency despite not having the best feeling with his R1 to cross the line in a solid fifth place. His teammate Alex Lowes qualified strongly in fifth on the grid and enjoyed two electric starts, taking the lead in the restarted race and battling at the front before experiencing a slight issue that saw him dropping back through the field. The 27-year-old recovered superbly to fight back and finish in a battling seventh place.
Van der Mark had ended Friday's practice in seventh overall on the timesheets with a 1:51.347 after displaying good pace in both the wet and dry. On Saturday morning, the 25-year-old Dutch rider ended FP4 in fifth place before going on to enjoy a promising SP2 that saw him qualify in seventh for Race 1 after setting a 1:49.863, just 0.320s off pole. When the lights went out in the original race, he shot up the inside into Turn 1 but missed his braking marker and ran wide, dropping back to 13th. Undeterred, he scythed his way through the field and was up to sixth when the red flag came out on lap 4. In the restarted 17-lap race, he enjoyed a much better start, battling in the leading group of eight riders right from the off. He built up his rhythm and started to make his way through the pack, passing his teammate for fifth on lap six.
Unfortunately, he was suffering from a slight difficulty on corner entry which meant he could not chase down the leaders but the 2014 WorldSSP Champion showed excellent consistency to cross the line in fifth place and collect 11 championship points. This now means he is just one point behind his teammate Lowes in the overall standings in sixth with 56 points from the first five races. Van der Mark will line up on the grid in the middle of the front row tomorrow, hoping that he can add to his 2018 podium tally after his superb ride to second in Race 2 at Thailand.
Lowes showed good progress on the opening day, ending Friday's practice in sixth overall by incredibly setting exactly the same time as his teammate (1:51.347). Trying a few setup tweaks in FP4, he ended the session in P4 with a 1:51.510. Feeling confident heading into SP2, the British rider improved to an excellent 1:49.853 to start Race 1 from fifth on the grid, just 0.010s quicker than his teammate as, once again, they were almost inseparable. He enjoyed a superb start in the original Race 1, flying up to second by the first corner and battling for the lead with Jonathan Rea before the red flag came out. In the restarted race, it was a case of déjà vu as once again he got a sensational start and was once again battling at the front with Rea. Taking the lead on lap 2 he looked as if he would battle for the victory but, unfortunately, he started to suffer with a chatter issue on his Pata Yamaha R1 that saw him drop down to seventh by lap 6.
Showing excellent composure, he worked out a way to ride around the problem and battled back to sixth, before just losing out to Tom Sykes on the final lap and crossing the line in hard-fought seventh place to collect nine points. This sees the 2013 British Superbike Champion maintain fifth in the championship standings with 57 points and he will be working hard with his team overnight to solve the issue with his bike to allow him to fight for his second podium of 2018 - after storming to third in Buriram - from fourth on the grid in Sunday's Race 2.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 5th +8.932s
"First of all, I was really happy with Superpole! We seemed to struggle this year and last year with qualifying and today we gained a lot with the qualifier and I finished the session in sixth, which I was quite happy with. We reduced the gap significantly to the guys at the front and I was close to Alex, so I was really happy with that. For the first race, I had a good start but missed my braking point into Turn 1, ran wide and I was coming back through the field when the red flag came out. After the red flag, in the restarted race I had a slight issue when back-shifting so, it was difficult. I had a really good start but then I had to find a way to ride the bike to manage the issue. With this problem, we must be really happy to have finished in P5 but we will fix the issue for tomorrow and then I hope we can fight for the podium!"
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 7th +9.985s
"My starts and the opening laps have been something I have struggled with so far this year. Today I got two go's at them and I did them both quite well, unfortunately, that is where the positivity ends because the race was quite tough. I don't really know why, but after the first few laps, I started to struggle with chatter on corner entry that was catching me out quite a lot and didn't allow me to ride the bike the way I wanted. I went into damage limitation mode from there on in, tried to be as consistent as could, focused on not making mistakes, and tried to get the bike to the end. It was a tough race but it was the best I could do so we will have a look with the guys and try again tomorrow. In general, I am really strong at the end of the races, today I was strong at the start, so let's try to improve the problem I had today and fill the bit in-between! If we can do that, we shouldn't be too far away from the top guys tomorrow!"
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"Race 1 here in Aragon was, honestly, disappointing. It was a strong effort by Michael and Alex to perform at the very front but, unfortunately, both riders had a couple of restrictions which limited the result to less than we hoped for. There were some positives, significantly improved starts for Alex, twice with the restart, and very few mistakes by either rider, plus strong consistency to make sure we scored good points but the ultimate performance over race distance wasn't enough and we will be doing everything we can to give Michael and Alex an improved R1 for tomorrow and achieve a better result."