Lowes Charges To Race 1 Podium in Qatar
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team rider Alex Lowes stormed his way to third place and his fourth podium finish of the season in today's thrilling WorldSBK encounter, run over 17-laps under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. Michael van der Mark brought his Yamaha YZF-R1 home in seventh position to pick up vital championship points, despite experiencing some pain in the latter stages of the race from the injury to his left wrist sustained in his FP1 crash yesterday.
Lowes, who lined up on the front row of the grid after a superb Superpole performance saw him qualify in third place, got a good start and was immediately embroiled in a titanic battle for third and the final podium spot with Eugene Laverty.
Laverty took the early advantage but the Pata Yamaha rider struck back to reclaim third place on lap seven, only for the Irishman to demote him back to fourth again two laps later. The positions remained the same for most of the second half of the as both riders started struggling for grip, Laverty with the front and Lowes with the rear.
On the final lap Lowes made his move, fighting his way past Laverty in a fierce battle and then holding the Irishman off to the line to secure his fourth podium finish of the season in third place.
Van der Mark endured a tough opening race in Qatar today, having missed out on set-up time due to a crash in the early stages of FP1 that left him nursing a painful left wrist injury. The Pata Yamaha rider got a good start from the third row of the grid, but was unable to make up places on the opening laps as he struggled to finish the corners.
Despite experiencing some pain in his wrist towards the end of the race, van der Mark managed to maintain contact with the battle for sixth position that was being fought out ahead of him. As he crossed the line to start the final lap both Chaz Davies and Xavi Fores slowed unexpectedly, allowing van der Mark through into seventh position, which he held to the chequered flag. The Pata Yamaha rider remains third in the championship standings, but is now just 23 points behind second-placed Davies.
The final race of the 2018 FIM World Superbike Championship takes place tomorrow, with lights out at the Losail International Circuit scheduled for 19.00 local time.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 3rd + 3.705
"It's been a strong weekend so far, with a good qualifying session followed by an even better race. I was struggling for rear grip a bit in the race, which is something we need to work on for tomorrow, but towards the end I could see Eugene was also starting to struggle with the front. That opened the door, so I just dug in at the end to pass him for third. It's great to be back on the podium here in Qatar and it was fun to be involved in such a great fight. The team have done a great job this weekend and the race simulation yesterday definitely helped me with the feeling of the R1 on worn tyres. Now we just need to try and finish off the season with another podium tomorrow!"
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 7th + 14.557
"I got a good start, but then it was really busy on the opening laps and I wasn't able to make up any places. I felt reasonably comfortable on the bike and eventually managed to pass a few people, but then I started struggling to get the bike to turn and then drive out on the gas. I also had some pain in my wrist from half race distance onwards, which didn't really help. It was a really tough race, but at the end I gained two places on the final lap and that's really important for the championship, so we can be relatively happy with that. For tomorrow we need to make some improvements to the bike. If we can do that, and as long as I can get away from the second row of the grid in the leading group, then I'm confident we can fight for a top five finish."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK - Team Principal
"What a brilliant performance by Alex after some difficult recent races - it was fantastic to see the confidence returning. Along with Eugene he created an incredibly exciting race that all of us, and I'm sure everyone watching, thoroughly enjoyed. Congratulations to Alex and his crew on putting together a great weekend so far and whilst it will be a lot tougher from the third row tomorrow, today's podium is a lot more important than tomorrow's starting position. Well done to everyone involved. Michael's weekend was compromised from the start by his FP1 crash and missing the whole of that session. The lack of track time combined with some injuries that would keep normal people sitting on the sofa made the race tough, but he dug in and maintained his effort for the whole race distance. We also believe we can improve the bike a bit more for Michael and give him a little bit more confidence. If we can do that, then starting from the second row we've seen some exceptional Race 2 performances from Michael this year, let's hope we can finish 2018 with another one tomorrow."