Lowes Storms to WorldSBK Race 1 Podium in Qatar
Alex Lowes consolidated his third position in the championship standings with a fantastic podium in WorldSBK Race 1, which was run in sweltering conditions under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar this evening. The Pata Yamaha with Rizla rider shadowed eventual winner Jonathan Rea closely for much of the race, but lacked the additional pace needed to mount a challenge for the lead. Michael van der Mark was involved in an intense battle for fifth place with Leon Haslam in the closing stages of the race, with the Englishman passing Yamaha’s Dutch rider on the final lap to leave him sixth at the chequered flag.
Lowes, starting from second place on the grid after an impressive qualifying performance this afternoon, was initially the only rider able to match the pace of pole sitter Rea. The pair managed to pull out a significant lead on the opening lap, which they'd extended to more than two seconds by half race distance. It was only as the race entered the final stages that Rea was able to create a small gap at the front, leaving Lowes to defend his position against Chaz Davies, who'd finally managed to close down the leading duo.
Davies made his move with four laps to go, diving up the inside of Lowes into the final turn and then using the power of the Ducati on the one kilometre long straight to build an unassailable gap. Third place in the race means that Lowes remains third in the championship standings but has extended his lead over fourth placed van der Mark from one to seven points, with Toprak Razgatlioglu a further ten points back in fifth.
Van der Mark was disappointed to finish only sixth in Qatar this evening, having struggled throughout the race with a lack of rear grip, especially on corner entry, most likely a consequence of the increased humidity. The Dutchman is confident he and his crew can find an improvement ahead of tomorrow's two races, which will bring to a close the 2019 WorldSBK season.
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri, endured a difficult Race 1 in Qatar, but for different reasons. Cortese made the most of a front row start to run in third place for the first three laps. The reigning Supersport World Champion had just been demoted to fourth by Davies when he lost the front at Turn seven and crashed out of the race.
Melandri was hampered by having to start from the sixth row of the grid and was unable to make significant progress after getting involved in a race long battle with Eugene Laverty and Michael Rinaldi. The GRT Yamaha rider eventually managed to pass his compatriot to finish in 12th position.
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, overcame the handicap of pain in his chest, a result of his crashes in Argentina, to finish as the top independent rider today, with the Frenchman riding a strong race to follow van der Mark across the line in seventh place.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK with Rizla - P3
"A good grid position was important because on this track it's easy for the first few guys to get away in the early laps, even with the slipstream effect on the straight. I felt good from the start and managed to jump on the back of Jonathan, who's always so fast early on, and that helped us pull away. In the mid part of the race I felt quite good, taking some better lines and I thought I might be able to challenge for the lead. But then I started to make some mistakes on the front and Chaz came past me. I saw I had a big gap back to fourth and, at that point, I decided to be sensible and bring the bike home for a podium finish. It was important to start with a good result in Race 1; while it wasn't possible to secure third place in the championship today, it was certainly possible to make the job a lot harder. I really enjoyed today and now the focus is on tomorrow, which we'll take race by race."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK with Rizla - P6
"My start tonight wasn't too bad but the first few corners were a bit of a mess. I was struggling with almost no entry grip from the first lap onwards, which made for a long and difficult race for me. We need to find out what caused the issue, as we didn't make any changes after Superpole, where I had a really good pace on the race tyres. I'm confident we can find a solution and be back out there ready to fight again tomorrow."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P12
"This was a very difficult race, mainly because of my starting position on the sixth row of the grid. The first few laps the feeling wasn't so bad, but I couldn't pass Laverty, who seemed to have better traction than me and was really hard on the brakes. I was a bit smoother in the corners, but it was almost impossible to pass. The first time I passed Rinaldi I ran wide, but I managed to come back and pass him again, although it was way too late by then. The conditions today were really difficult, very hot and very humid, maybe more so than even Thailand. It didn't help that I was so close to the bikes in front that I could feel their engine heat too. We will see if we can improve tomorrow."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - DNF
"After such a good Superpole, which put me on the front row, I was expecting a bit more today. I got a good start, felt really comfortable and wasn't having any problems at all for the first few laps. Then, just six laps in, I lost the front and crashed. From what we've seen of the data so far it didn't look like a big mistake, but more that I was trying to stay with the front guys who were setting an incredible pace in the opening laps. The good thing is that tomorrow we have another chance and we need to take the positives from today, with the front row and the early race pace, and carry that over into the final two races of the season."
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P7
"My chest wasn't that painful in the race, but I definitely wasn't able to move around on the bike how I wanted, which made things harder for me. But I don't think I lost time because of this; it just made the race a bit tougher. I wasn't feeling great for the first few laps and the pace of the guys at the front was also a bit of a surprise. I was struggling for grip and nearly highsided myself on corner entry, but changing maps brought an improvement and from that point on it was all about not making any mistakes. I knew at the end of the race I could be faster than the four riders ahead of me, but when I caught them, I was missing just a bit of rear grip and couldn't make a move on them. It was a good race, but yesterday I really thought we'd be in contention for a podium finish and we were far from this today. It seems we struggle a bit when the humidity increases, so we need to find out why ahead of tomorrow's two races."