Lowes and Van Der Mark Battle for the Podium in Aragon Thriller
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, were involved in a titanic five-way battle for the podium in today's 18-lap WorldSBK encounter in Aragon, missing out only due to deteriorating rear grip in the closing stages of the race. Lowes eventually finished fourth, with van der Mark following him home in sixth position. GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Sandro Cortese, recovered from a difficult opening lap to finish as the top independent rider in seventh, while teammate Marco Melandri was disappointed to finish 12th after struggling all weekend to find a good feeling with his Yamaha YZF-R1.
Lowes made a superb start from the second row of the grid, immediately making up places to cross the line in third place at the end of the opening lap. The 28-year-old Briton was then embroiled in a three-way battle for second place, with Lowes, Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea swapping places on almost every lap as Alvaro Bautista extended his gap at the front of the race. With six laps remaining Lowes looked certain to claim his best result of the season to date with second place, but as rear grip became more difficult to find the Pata Yamaha rider was unable to maintain his podium challenge and was forced to settle for fourth place and valuable points at the line.
After a difficult Superpole session, in which he qualified only 11th on the grid, van der Mark and his crew took the chance on an untested set-up for the race. It was a gamble that paid off for the Pata Yamaha rider, who made a flying start from the third row, only to have to immediately shut off to avoid Markus Reiterberger, who crashed in front of him. By mid-race distance, van der Mark had caught the group fighting for second, but a drop off in rear grip in the closing stages of the race meant that he was unable to mount a challenge for the podium and he eventually finished sixth.
Cortese impressed with a Superpole performance that saw the WorldSBK rookie claim second place on the grid for Race 1 this afternoon, but the reigning Supersport World Champion was unable to capitalise on his front row start in the early stages of the race. After dropping back initially, the GRT Yamaha rider eventually found his rhythm and was closing on the battle for the podium throughout the second half of the race before eventually running out of laps. Cortese was happy with his performance overall as, while this was his third successive seventh-place finish, this time he halved the gap to the podium compared to Race 2 in Thailand.
It was an afternoon to forget for Melandri, who has struggled all weekend to find a set-up on the GRT Yamaha YZF-R1 to inspire confidence. The Italian got a good start in the race, but gradually dropped back to finish 12th as the problems he experienced throughout practice and qualifying continued to hamper his progress. The team will go through the data tonight in a bid to find a solution for tomorrow’s sprint and feature races.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P4
"It was a good battle today. It's a shame it wasn't at the front; there was someone a bit too far up the road, but I felt with six or seven laps to go I could hold on to second place. Even when Johnny Rea came past me, I still felt like I had the pace to fight back but then, with just three laps to go, there was a big drop in rear grip and I couldn't keep the same pace. It was a little disappointing at the end of the race but, apart from that, I enjoyed it and it was good to get a strong race under our belt to give the guys some information, because with the cooler weather this morning we've not had too much consistent track conditions this weekend. Now I'm looking forward to trying to improve the R1 a little bit more, ready for tomorrow."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P6
"We made some changes to the bike this morning, but we still didn't find the right setting for me and that impacted on my Superpole performance. For the race we decided to take a bit of a gamble with the set-up and, even on the way to the grid, I knew it was one that would pay off. I got a good start, but then Reiterberger crashed right in front of me and I hit something, so I lost a bit of time there. Right from the start I had a better feeling with the bike and my pace was much better, but I was struggling on corner entry, with the rear locking and sliding a bit too much. It meant I could stay with the guys battling for second in front of me, but it was difficult to find somewhere to put in a pass. I tried a few times, but as soon as the grip dropped then I was struggling even more on corner entry and couldn't maintain the pace. I lost a position at the end, which is a shame, but the positive is that we made a massive step with the bike and we're in a much better position now for the two races tomorrow."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P7
"I think today was a good day. P2 was our best result in qualifying so far and in the race we closed the gap to the front guys a lot. In Race 2 in Thailand the gap to the podium was 25 seconds and here it was only eight seconds that separated me from Johnny Rea, who was on the podium. In both races I was seventh, but it was two different seventh places and it's the gap to the front that is important. So far I think we've made a really good job, we learnt a lot about what we need to improve for and I'm looking forward to the two races tomorrow."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P12
"In Superpole, on the race tyre, it wasn't so bad, but we definitely had some issues in the race. We changed a bit the set-up to try and find more speed, but then the engine braking was not so good and my feeling with the bike was worse than before, so I couldn't stop the bike. In the corners the bike felt very high in the front and I had no grip, so the bike didn't want to turn. It was difficult but, for sure, my potential here is much better than this and for that reason I'm happy to race again tomorrow."