Both Pata Yamahas in the Top Five in Argentina
The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK team continued their run of positive form in today's Race 1 in Argentina, with Michael van der Mark finishing in fourth place and teammate Alex Lowes following him across the line in fifth. The result means that van der Mark moves to within three points of Lowes, as the Pata Yamaha pairing continue to dispute third place in the championship standings.
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, was ruled unfit to race by circuit medical staff following a crash in the final turn during the early stages of today's Superpole qualifying session. Baz sustained contusions to his left wrist, with the impact severe enough to cause extensive swelling but no other damage. The Frenchman's injury will be reassessed ahead of warm-up tomorrow morning, but Baz is confident that he'll be passed fit to ride.
Also absent from today's Race 1 grid were Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri. While the GRT Yamaha team had their Yamaha R1’s ready to race, both riders felt the inconsistent surface of the San Juan Villicum track was not conducive to safe racing and opted not to take their place on the grid. In total six riders made the decision not to race due to safety concerns, leaving a depleted grid of just 12 riders to contest WorldSBK Race 1.
The condition of the San Juan Villicum circuit has been a major discussion point all weekend, with riders expressing their concerns about the dirty surface and the newly resurfaced areas of the track even before anyone had turned a wheel in anger.
Efforts by circuit staff to clean the track surface on Thursday afternoon proved woefully inadequate and conditions on the opening day were treacherous, with surface dirt and seepage from the new asphalt causing a severe lack of grip, a problem that was exacerbated as the track temperature increased.
While a full day of track sessions yesterday meant that a much wider clean line was available to riders in the final free practice session and qualifying today if riders were forced offline by a mistake or by a rival, the level of grip available dropped significantly.
The condition of the San Juan Villicum track was significantly below the standard expected of a circuit on the world championship calendar on arrival, and unfortunately, it remains below this standard, despite the improvements as a result of use and maintenance over the past two days.
Despite the problems, today's WorldSBK Race 1 ran the full distance and, while times were slower than expected due to the tricky conditions, was concluded without a single incident and with all 12 protagonists picking up championship points at the chequered flag.
Track conditions are expected to improve further tomorrow, as the forecast is for overcast skies and an ambient temperature significantly lower than the last two days.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P4
"Conditions weren't ideal again today, which made for a tough race, but we were expecting that. I got a good start from the front row after qualifying in second and then had a nice four-way battle at the front for a few laps. We managed to pull away quite quickly from the guys behind us, but after seven laps I started to struggle with the rear grip and I couldn't stay with the lead group. Today was more survival then a real race, but I scored some really good points and we know where we need to improve for tomorrow."
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P5
"I didn't have the pace I was expecting in the race. At first, I was on the back of the leading group, but they were a bit quicker than me as I wasn't comfortable stopping the bike and getting it into the corner, so that was tough. I knew I could do 1'42 consistently and I tried to keep that pace until the end. I knew Leon Haslam was catching me, but I couldn't really go any faster, so it was a case of ensuring I didn't make any mistakes, as running even a little offline and onto the dirty part of the track lost you a lot of time. It was a little bit frustrating, but I managed to get fifth and we have plenty of information that we can use to find improvements for tomorrow. Overall, not too bad, but a shame how it all turned out on the grid ahead of the race. But anyway, the focus is now on tomorrow and challenging for the podium."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - DNS
"First of all, I feel very sorry for the fans, my team, our sponsors and my crew, who put in a lot of work to have the bikes ready to race today. Maybe Marco and I look bad now because we opted not to ride, but I stand by my decision because I believed the track was simply not safe to race on today. We offered a solution to the problem, suggesting two full length races tomorrow in the cooler conditions that are predicted, but this was rejected. despite the fact that it is us that have to race on a track with so many issues that impact on our safety. Today has left me disappointed."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - DNS
"It's a shame not to race, because this track is so beautiful, but we saw in Superpole that with the increase in temperature the seepage from the new tarmac made it very difficult to ride with a reasonable margin for safety. For me it made no sense to race in dangerous conditions today, when there was an option to run both races tomorrow, when it's predicted to be overcast with temperatures around 11 or 12 degrees lower than today. That would have provided a much better show for the fans, but the idea was rejected. It was a shame for everyone today actually, but safety must be the priority always."