Van der Mark Charges to the Podium in Portimão
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team rider Michael van der Mark got the final part of his 2018 FIM World Superbike Championship campaign off to a flying start today, with a superb third place finish in Race 1 at Portimão to secure the last spot on the podium. Alex Lowes rode an intelligent race to pick up valuable championship points with tenth place, after overcoming some technical issues in the 20-lap race.
Van der Mark set himself up for today's podium finish during qualifying this morning, which the 25-year-old Dutch rider finished just 0.2s off pole position to secure fifth place on the second row of the grid for the race. The track temperature had risen significantly by the time the riders lined up on the grid, with the result that rear grip became increasingly difficult to find. However, van der Mark was able to maintain a fast and consistent pace in fourth place during the first half of the race, before being elevated to third when Lorenzo Savadori crashed in front of him at half race distance.
Van der Mark remains third in the championship standings with 264 points, but today's podium finish saw him close the gap to second-placed Chaz Davies to just 27 points.
Lowes made another step forward with the set up of his Yamaha YZF-R1 this morning during the cooler conditions of FP4. The 28-year-old British rider looked certain to challenge for a starting position on the first two rows of the grid, until a crash at the ultra-fast final turn brought his qualifying session to a premature conclusion.
Starting from 12th on the grid Lowes was unfortunate to get held up behind the first lap crash at turn three, dropping him further down the field, but then fought his way back through the field to finish tenth at the line, despite having to overcome some technical problems, which are currently being investigated by the team..
Both Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team riders are confident of securing a good result tomorrow in Race 2, which gets underway at the later than usual time of 15.15.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 3rd + 4.215
"I'm quite happy with today. It started in Superpole, where we were able to improve the bike a lot to finish just 0.2s off pole position and secure a second row grid position in P5. But right from the start of the race I was struggling a little for rear grip. That's something we need to look into tonight to see if we can find some improvement, but we can be happy with the podium today. Now we have to work hard for the second race tomorrow, where I hope we can push for the podium once again but this time from the third row of the grid."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 10th + 32.408
"I got caught up in the crash at turn three on the opening lap, which is just one of those things when you start from 12th on the grid, but even after that my pace wasn't what I was expecting because of some issues with the bike. It was important to try and ride around the problems without making a mistake, try to keep the pace as consistent as possible and pick up as many places as I could. A tough end to the day, as I thought I'd made a good step this morning in FP4, but then in qualifying I made a small mistake in the last corner and crashed. It was a fast crash, so I was lucky to get away with it and I'm hoping for a stronger race tomorrow."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK - Team Principal
"Michael has been strong all weekend and the YZF-R1 has been competitive in all conditions, so it was great to see him realise that potential with a podium result today. I believe Michael was expecting a little bit more; in the hotter conditions we didn't quite have the expected levels of grip. Nonetheless, he rode a very solid race, understood what the maximum he could achieve was and rode very hard and consistently. Alex, unfortunately, had a very difficult race and experienced some issues with the bike that restricted his performance. The team is now working hard to ensure that Alex has the best YZF-R1 possible for tomorrow's race and we expect him to take a good step forward."