Lowes Leads the Way for Yamaha in Challenging Race 1 at Laguna Seca
It was Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider, Alex Lowes, who led the way for Yamaha today at Laguna Seca, with the 28-year-old Briton qualifying eighth in Superpole this morning before improving to finish fifth in this afternoon's 25-lap WorldSBK Race 1. Michael van der Mark fought his way through the field from 15th position on the grid to finish a respectable seventh. Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, was the next Yamaha rider home in eighth position, with Marco Melandri securing a top ten finish in ninth aboard the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK R1. Sandro Cortese struggled throughout the race with a left shoulder injury sustained at Donington Park but managed to ride through the pain to pick up points in 14th position.
Lowes was the only one of the five Yamaha riders to enjoy a trouble free Superpole session, although the Pata Yamaha rider was disappointed to qualify only eighth and to miss out on a place on the front two rows of the grid for Race 1 this afternoon. Superpole was red flagged after just five minutes when Baz crashed at the Corkscrew and damaged the air fence. The stoppage allowed his bike to be recovered and the Ten Kate mechanics managed to get the bike rebuilt before the end of the session, with Baz managing one fast lap in the final five minutes to secure ninth position on the grid.
Van der mark wasn't so lucky. The Pata Yamaha rider crashed at turn four shortly after the restart and, with his bike stranded at the side of the track, was forced to sit out the remainder of the session, which he ended in 15th position. Both Cortese and Melandri struggled to find a good feeling in Superpole, with the two GRT Yamaha riders eventually qualifying in 13th and 17th positions respectively.
It proved a challenging Race 1 for Lowes, who got a good start from the third row of the grid to slot into sixth place. As the field spread out in the closing stages the Pata Yamaha rider managed to catch Jordi Torres ahead of him, passing the Kawasaki rider for fifth place at turn seven and then holding the position to the chequered flag. The result means that Lowes closed the gap to his teammate van der Mark in the championship, with just 12 points now separating the Briton from third place in the standings.
A good start and some aggressive overtakes saw van der Mark inside the top ten at the end of the opening lap. By midrace distance the 26-year-old was in eighth place but moved up one more place with a pass on fellow Yamaha rider Baz with 11 laps to go. Van der Mark managed to pull away from the Frenchman in the closing stages to finish seventh, with Baz following him home in eighth place.
After fighting his way through heavy traffic from 17th position on the grid in the early stages, Melandri then had a lonely race to a top ten finish, with the veteran Italian taking the chequered flag in ninth place, less than two seconds behind Baz.
The physically demanding Laguna Seca circuit took its toll on Cortese, with the reigning Supersport World Champion struggling with a left shoulder injured in a crash last time out at Donington Park. Cortese gritted his teeth and rode through the pain to finish in the points in 14th position.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P5 - Championship Position - P4 - 203 Points
"It was a tough race today and although I finished top five, it's frustrating to finish with such a big gap to the winner. I didn't really have the pace that I expected to be honest. I had a good battle with Jordi Torres, who was riding a good race, but he struggled for grip a bit at the end and I managed to pass him for fifth. It's proving a tough track for the Yamahas and we've not been as competitive at Laguna as we have been elsewhere this season. In the race I knew I had to get a good start and then try maximising what I had. I learned quite a bit in the race, especially in which areas we need to improve the R1 here. Now we know that, it gives us something to work on to be stronger tomorrow."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P7 - Championship Position - P3 - 215 Points
"I made a mistake in Superpole and crashed, which meant I had to start Race 1 from 15th position on the grid, which is not ideal but, fortunately, I have a bit of experience starting so far back this season! I got a good start and was up to tenth after the first lap. I felt a lot better with the bike and it was easier to follow the guys in front of me. When Leon Haslam crashed, I was sat behind Loris Baz and I followed him for quite a few laps because I didn't feel that I was quicker at that point. With 11 laps to go I managed to make a pass stick and then pull away a little. My pace was consistent but nothing special and I was starting to struggle a bit towards the end, but I think everyone was the same. We know where we need to improve for tomorrow, but after a difficult Superpole I think we can be relatively satisfied with the race result today."
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P8 - Championship Position - P14 - 64 Points
"I felt good this morning, but I was happy we could make at least one fast lap after the crash in Superpole, as the race is always easier from the third row rather than the last, so thanks to the team for rebuilding the bike so quickly. So, in the race I was expecting more, but we seem to have a problem when the track temperature rises and the other guys managed to have better pace than us. From the start I wasn't able to follow Jordi Torres and Alex Lowes and when Michael van der Mark came past me, I wasn't able to stay with him. In the end I just brought it home for another top ten finish and more championship points. It was good to finish eighth and closer to the other Yamahas, but as we get better our expectations also increase."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P9 - Championship Position - P9 - 131 Points
"The race was a lot better than qualifying this morning, but I can't really be happy because I'm struggling a lot. There was a lot of traffic in the opening laps and anyway, even when I had a clear track, I couldn't ride how I wanted to. I just miss confidence and I couldn't find my line; it was so difficult. When the tyre dropped down, I felt a bit better because the bike was a bit softer, but still not ideal for me. I was fighting all the race, trying to do my best but it's not enough. Tomorrow we're looking for a top nine finish in the sprint race, but it won't be easy."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P13 - Championship Position - P10 - 98 Points
"It was a very tough race today and I had much more pain in the left shoulder that I injured at Donington than I was expecting. In practice over four or five laps it was fine, but seven or eight laps into the race I had so much pain. All I could do was try to finish the race today. I'm sorry about this, as I wasn't expecting the shoulder to be a problem. Even with treatment from the Clinica Mobile nothing really helped to improve the shoulder, so now I can only aim to finish the two races tomorrow and then head home to recover fully during the summer break."