Van der Mark's Double Dutch Delight in Race 2 at Assen
Local hero Michael van der Mark gave the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team and the passionate Dutch fans something to celebrate on Sunday at Round 4 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship. After finishing Saturday's Race 1 in second place, he stormed to another podium in Race 2, crossing the line in third to record his best ever WorldSBK weekend in terms of results. In contrast, his teammate Alex Lowes, who had shown excellent pace all weekend, unfortunately, struggled with front-end grip during Race 2. Displaying his trademark fighting spirit, he was battling hard before he crashed at the Geert Timmer chicane on lap 13 but courageously remounted and rejoined the race in last, battling back superbly in the final laps and recovering to finish in 14th place.
Local hero Van der Mark secured a sensational podium on Saturday, setting the fastest lap of Race 1 as he charged from seventh on the grid to cross the line in second, just missing out on the race win by 0.981s after an excellent duel with Jonathan Rea - the closest the Pata Yamaha team have come to victory since their return to WorldSBK in 2016. This saw him start Race 2 from eighth on the grid but after a blistering start, he was, incredibly, up to third by the end of the just the first lap. Once again, he would become involved in another superb battle with championship leader Rea - this time for second - that ran until the final few laps.
The 25-year-old Dutch rider was biding his time and saving his tyres to engage Rea like he did in Race 1 in a fight towards the end but during the final stages, he suffered from a small technical issue with his Pata Yamaha R1 that saw his challenge for second fade. Instead, he took the chequered flag in a sensational third place with the grandstands in Assen erupting once more for the man from Rotterdam as he secured his best ever points haul from a WorldSBK weekend. In the process, he also recorded the Pata Yamaha Team's - and the new generation Yamaha YZF-R1's - first ever double podium during a race weekend. The 2014 WorldSSP Champion is now looking like a serious contender and is fourth in the overall standings with 103 points, just 12 behind Marco Melandri in third.
It was a tough weekend for his teammate Lowes, who displayed excellent pace in almost every session. This was highlighted by the incredible lap in Saturday's SP2 that saw him take his maiden WorldSBK pole position. Unfortunately, this would be the highlight of his weekend, as an error on the grid saw his Pata Yamaha R1 fitted with the wrong front tyre. Miraculously, he showed superb tenacity and maturity to fight his way to finish in 12th. Hoping to bounce back in Sunday's Race 2 from 10th on the grid, he enjoyed a superb start and was up to fifth by the end of lap 2.
Determined to fight for the podium, his mission was derailed by a lack of front grip that got worse as the race progressed. Battling with every ounce of his strength, he somehow managed to stay in the top six before a crash at the final corner on lap 13. The 27-year-old Brit immediately jumped back on the bike and rejoined the race but found himself in last position and 50 seconds down on the race leader. Getting his head down he went on a charge and somehow managed to claw back an eight-second deficit to catch the riders in front of him, crossing the line in a spirited 14th place and securing two championship points. The 2013 British Superbike Champion is now seventh in the overall standings with 76 points and will head to the test in Brno with one goal in mind, to bounce back in Imola and be back fighting at the front.
Coming off back-to-back races, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team now head to Brno at the weekend to conduct a private test, before returning to action at Round 5 of the WorldSBK Championship in Imola on the 11-13th of May. Check out the full WorldSBK Race 2 results.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 3rd +7.507s
"I am really happy to have secured a double podium! Yesterday, I was quite close to Jonny fighting for victory and I was really happy with that. I was hoping today we could repeat it and, coming from eighth place on the grid, I had a good start and a good first lap. To be honest, I struggled a bit compared to yesterday. I think the temperature went up a bit and I was struggling a little with the front grip and my pace wasn't as good as yesterday, so I was a bit worried. Jonny passed me and the best thing I could do was follow him, so I did that, felt good and thought we might have another nice battle but during the last few laps, we had a small issue with the bike which meant I couldn't fight with him. Anyway, it has been an incredible weekend, we have been fast from the start. We have had amazing weather, amazing crowds, so I have really enjoyed my home race and I am really happy to go home with my two trophies. I am looking forward to Imola but first, we hope to have a good test in Brno. We have a few ideas to try with the bike there and then it is Imola. I think we have a good base setup with the bike and hopefully, Imola will confirm that. If we can find a bit of extra speed at Brno then we will be able to fight at the front again in front of Yamaha's Italian fans."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 14th +53.355s
"It was a tough race, there is not a lot to say really. I crashed at the chicane when the front let go without any warning, I got back on and that was it, the race was finished already. So it wasn't the best day for me and of course, I'm really disappointed, but the team had good results with Michael and I will look to bounce back with a strong weekend in Imola after the Brno test."
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"It was another fantastic day's work for Michael at his home race to put the Pata Yamaha R1 on the podium from the third row of the grid. It even looked, with only a few laps remaining, that he would be able to challenge Jonathan for second but a small technical problem meant he had to adapt his riding style and bring the machine home in, still, a fabulous third place. Congratulations to Michael, his crew, and Yamaha's engineers on the step-by-step progress that is now starting to pay dividends with clear results.
As a team, we couldn't feel more disappointed for Alex. He has ridden so well all weekend, has had fantastic pace - as his maiden WorldSBK pole position clearly demonstrated - but the problems we suffered in the race yesterday possibly caused an overreaction with regards to some of the choices we made with the setup today and the bike did not have the amount of front grip that we would have liked to have given him. Nonetheless, Alex pushed forward from the fourth row amazing well, showed full commitment and, with a lack front grip, the data showed his accident on the entry to the chicane was not something he could have easily avoided without going a lot more slowly, which is something that the top riders never want to do.
So, Assen was a weekend of highs and lows but the positives to be taken include the first pole position for the new generation R1 and for Alex, the first double podium in the same race weekend for the team and the bike, and the overall performance potential shown means we look forward to the Brno test and Imola race with a lot of enthusiasm."