Hard Fought Fourth for Lowes to Round Out His Home Race Weekend
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider Alex Lowes led the way for Yamaha in WorldSBK Race 2 this afternoon at Donington Park, getting the better of a tremendous battle with Kawasaki's Leon Haslam and fellow Yamaha rider Loris Baz to finish fourth. The 28-year-old Briton rode a superb last lap to close on Alvaro Bautista but wasn't quite close enough to challenge for the final podium position before taking the chequered flag. Michael van der Mark continued to amaze today, twice finishing inside the top ten despite undergoing surgery on a fractured right radius less than two weeks ago. The Pata Yamaha rider was eighth in the Sprint Race this morning and backed that up with another eighth place in this afternoon's Race 2.
A difficult Superpole session for both Pata Yamaha riders yesterday, in which Lowes qualified eighth and van der Mark 16th, had a marked impact on today's two races. In the Sprint Race both riders were working their way steadily through the field only for the race to be stopped with three laps remaining, with Lowes running sixth and van der Mark eighth, when oil was dropped at the Melbourne Hairpin.
Both Pata Yamaha riders got a good start in Race 2, but as Lowes worked his way towards the front of the pack in the opening laps, van der Mark came under immediate pressure as he struggled for rear grip. At half race distance the Dutch rider had passed Ducati's Chaz Davies for eighth position, which he held to the chequered flag.
The second half of the race was much busier for Lowes. Having got the better of Baz to move up to fifth, the Pata Yamaha rider tried on two occasions to pass Haslam for fourth at the Melbourne Hairpin, only for his fellow countryman to close the door both times. Lowes eventually made the pass stick on the penultimate lap, with Bautista now more than a second ahead in third. A spirited chase on the final lap saw Lowes close the gap to less than half a second, but he wasn't quite close enough to challenge for the final podium place in the final corner and had to settle for fourth at the line.
Donington proved a difficult weekend for the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese, but for different reasons. Melandri and his crew struggled all weekend to find a set-up that the Italian was comfortable, an issue that was exacerbated by the lack of dry track time on Saturday. Despite the issues, Melandri raced his way to tenth place in both of today's races but was disappointed not to have secured better results at a track he rates as one of his strongest.
Cortese was unfortunate to crash heavily at the Melbourne Hairpin this morning, on the dropped oil that caused the Sprint Race to be red flagged. While Cortese was lucky to walk away uninjured, the crash caused major damage to his R1 and the GRT Yamaha mechanics did well to get it rebuilt ahead of Race 2, in which the reigning Supersport World Champion picked up points with a 13th place finish.
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, finished fifth and sixth in today's two races, which saw his points tally for the weekend increase to 28, the same number of points scored by Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes. The Frenchman's performance, in only his third race weekend aboard the R1, underlines the competitiveness of the Yamaha package.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P4 - Championship Position 4th - 192 Points
"The issues in Superpole yesterday set us back a little bit today. We made some changes to the bike ahead of the Sprint Race and, while I didn't feel quite as good as I was expecting, towards the end I was coming on strong in what was quite a tight group. With only seven laps because of the red flag it didn't feel like much of a race to be honest. In Race 2 I knew it was going to be difficult to get away with the leading group starting from further back, but I felt I managed the race well. I was really strong at the end, but not quite close enough to challenge for the final podium, but there were plenty of positives we can take into the Laguna Seca race next week."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P8 - Championship Position 3rd - 206 Points
"We made a change to the bike after the Sprint Race and I think we maybe went a little bit in the wrong direction, as I was struggling for rear grip from the start and couldn't use the new tyre like everyone else. I actually got a good start but then dropped back quite quickly and there wasn't much I could do about it. I had good pace, but I'd have liked to have been able to push harder. We have to be happy with the points we've scored this weekend, given the injury, but as a racer I know that if I had the grip then I'd have been able to fight with Alex and the other guys. The wrist was much better than I was expecting this weekend, so now I can look forward to Laguna with some confidence."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P10 - Championship Position 9th - 124 Points
"This was not a good weekend for us. After Misano I expected to have a much better feeling, especially here at Donington where I've had good results in the past. So, we were expecting a positive weekend here, but it turned out very different. I never really had a good feeling and I struggled a lot from the start. Either the bike doesn't like me, or my riding style doesn't suit the bike, so it's difficult. Yamaha and the team are working incredibly hard to help me find a solution and so am I, but we're still looking for the light at the end of the tunnel."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P13 - Championship Position 10th - 96 Points
"Today was a day to forget, if I'm honest. It started in the Sprint Race when I was the first to arrive in the corner where the oil had been dropped. I had no chance and crashed so heavily that the bike was literally in two pieces. I have to say a big thank you to my team, who did an incredible job to basically build a new bike in just two hours. They were still working on it on the grid and, even one minute before the start of Race 2, we weren't sure whether we were going to make the start. After all this drama I wasn't as focused I normally am but, after two crashes, it was important for me to finish the race and pick up some points to round out the weekend. Now we must look forward to the next race in Laguna, where I hope we can end the first part of the season with some good results."
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
"I'm still amazed that Michael was able to race this weekend so soon after the surgery on his wrist. It shows just how hard he's worked since Misano and how much he wanted to be back on the bike here at Donington Park. It's also a testament to the fantastic job done by the surgeons in Rimini and the treatment he's received from the medical staff under the direction of the Dorna Medical Director, Doctor Monica Lazzarotti. And I think it's fair to say that Michael didn't just ride the bike; he raced it to three top ten finishes to pick up 18 important points. After a difficult Superpole, Alex bounced back to once again finish close to the podium today. He showed good progress over the course of the weekend and this bodes well for the coming races. It proved an unlucky day for Sandro today, who was unfortunate to crash on oil in the Sprint Race this morning. The team did an incredible job to rebuild the bike in the two hours before Race 2 and Sandro did well to pick up points after such a big crash. For Marco it was also a difficult weekend. The problems he experienced were different on each of the three days, but all conspired to stop him realising his potential here at Donington. We will work closely with the team and with Marco to try and find a solution, as we know he is capable of much more once he recovers his confidence. The Ten Kate Yamaha team and Loris Baz have continued to make significant steps forward in a very short space of time. Donington was only their third race with the Yamaha R1, but Loris was our joint scorer alongside Alex, with 28 championship points picked up by them both this weekend. We are happy that we now have another rider and another team able to show the potential of our R1 in this championship."