Lowes Bounces Back to Portimão Podium
Alex Lowes reclaimed third position in the WorldSBK championship standings from his Pata Yamaha WorldSBK teammate, Michael van der Mark, with a strong showing in Portimão today. The 28-year-old Briton stormed to a podium finish with third place in the Superpole Sprint race, before getting the better of a titanic race-long battle with compatriot Leon Haslam to finish in a creditable fourth place in Race 2.
Lowes' performance in today's two races shows the resilience of the Pata Yamaha rider, who bounced back from a frustrating Race 1, in which he struggled throughout for rear grip. Yesterday Lowes saw his teammate finish on the podium and take a two-point advantage in the standings but responded with two strong performances today to reclaim third place in the championship with a five-point advantage over van der Mark in fourth.
Van der Mark went into Race 2 looking to repeat his podium success of yesterday, but changes to the set-up of his Yamaha YZF-R1 ahead of the race failed to bring the expected improvements and the 26-year-old Dutchman struggled to maintain a consistent pace as a result. The Pata Yamaha rider was involved in an intense battle with fellow Yamaha rider, Loris Baz, in the final stages of the race, with the Frenchman gaining the advantage on the final lap to take sixth place, with van der Mark following him home in seventh.
It was another difficult weekend for Marco Melandri, as he continues to search for a set-up to suit his riding style, but his feeling with the bike in Race 2 was better than it had been in Race 1 and the veteran Italian took advantage to claim his best result of the weekend with eighth place.
Sandro Cortese racked up his third top-ten finish of the weekend this afternoon, adding a tenth place in Race 2 to the eighth places he secured in Race 1 yesterday and the Superpole race this morning. The reigning Supersport World Champion was satisfied with a weekend in which his confidence has been restored following injury in qualifying for the Donington Park round, but also slightly frustrated that a lack of rear grip stopped him meeting his own expectations in today's final race outing.
Loris Baz paid heavily for an error in qualifying yesterday, which saw him starting from the fifth row of the grid in this morning's Superpole race. Despite a less than ideal start, the Frenchman had managed to fight his way through the field to claim ninth at the chequered flag, securing himself a start from the third row of the grid for Race 2. Having lost time on the leading two groups passing Tom Sykes, Baz found himself three seconds adrift of van der Mark in sixth place as the race entered the final stages. The Ten Kate Yamaha rider got his head down and managed to catch the Dutchman with four laps to go, getting the better of the subsequent battle to deny the Pata Yamaha rider sixth place on the line.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P3 and P4 - Championship Position P3 - 249 Points
"Yesterday I was a bit frustrated because a lack of grip in the latter stages meant I couldn't really race, but it was the complete opposite today, with two really good races. The battle with Leon Haslam in Race 2 was fantastic and really good fun. He was struggling with the front and I was struggling more with the rear, so while he could get the run on me, he couldn't get the bike stopped, which made for a really close race. To get a third and a fourth today, at a track where I've struggled a bit in the past when it's hot, is fantastic. Good racing, I really enjoyed it and now I'm looking forward to Magny-Cours."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK - P6 and P7 - Championship Position P4 - 244 Points
"The Superpole race wasn't easy, but our goal was to improve the feeling with the bike and secure a better grid position for Race 2 and we achieved that. We made a small change to the set up ahead of Race 2 and, as a result, I struggled a lot more than yesterday, unfortunately. Yesterday I could ride the bike exactly how I wanted, but today I simply didn't have a good feeling from the start and wasn't able to maintain a consistent pace. I lost a lot of time, which is a shame, but we know where we need to improve and I'm confident we'll be back at the front in Magny-Cours, which is a track I really like."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P13 and P8 - Championship Position P9 - 153 Points
"It's been a difficult round, but a positive is that for Race 2 we found the best set-up that we've had here this weekend in Portimão. Even so, it was still a tough race. My problem is clear, but finding a solution has so far proved tricky, despite the hard work of Yamaha and my team. I need a better start, because this is always better, but I also need to be more consistent in the race. It was really hard for me to use the same line every lap and I was working the tyre really hard. When the front grip dropped down then I was struggling a lot today. In the end I think everyone was struggling for rear grip, but we know we still have some work to do ahead of the next race in Magny-Cours."
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P8 and P10 - Championship Position P10 - 116 Points
"From the first lap in Race 2 this afternoon I had a big problem with the rear of the bike sliding around and I wasn't able to stay with the second group. We don't know what the cause was, because I felt pretty good in the Superpole race this morning and I had a good race. This afternoon I managed to finish top-ten but my expectations after this morning were much higher. But it was a weekend without a crash, my self-confidence is back, and I was happy with both Race 1 and the Superpole race. Race 2 this afternoon I felt much stronger in myself than was reflected in the result."
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK - P9 and P6 - Championship Position P13 - 87 Points
"It was a hard day yesterday for me, as I made a mistake in qualifying and that had a huge impact on the weekend as a whole. In the Superpole race, the only goal was top nine to improve my grid position for Race 2 and I managed that, despite dropping back to 18th from the start. Race 2 was okay, other than another bad start which is something we need to work on, but I managed to come back. I lost a lot of time, around three seconds, behind Tom Sykes and that meant once I'd managed to pass him, I had a big gap to Michael van der Mark ahead of me. But I managed to close the gap without killing the tyre, which is where the race simulations we did at the test paid off, and I eventually passed him for sixth. I'm happy with the result; the guys worked really hard after my mistake yesterday, so big thanks to them. We enjoyed a strong weekend and we showed that we're getting closer and closer to the podium."
Yamaha Motor Europe Road Racing Manager
"We can be satisfied with our performance this weekend, especially in the tricky track conditions that hot weather always brings here in Portimão. Michael rode an incredible Race 1 yesterday, to finish third and on the podium from tenth on the grid. He manages to find his way through the field in a way that others can't his pass on Chaz Davies, riding around the outside of him in the final turn, was incredible, but so typical of his way of racing. It was unfortunate that he was unable to repeat his podium success after going in slightly the wrong direction with set-up today. But then Alex, who struggled for grip yesterday, bounced back strongly to finish on the podium in the Superpole Race and backed that up with an excellent fourth place in Race 2, making it a strong weekend for the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK squad. Sandro looks to have fully recovered from the injuries that hampered him in Donington and Laguna and his confidence has also been restored with three race finishes and three solid results this weekend. I expect he will bank this experience and we'll see a much more confident Sandro next time out in Magny-Cours. Marco is still searching for a set up that suits his riding style, but he pushed to the maximum in all three races this weekend, making a step forward in each outing, and it was good to see him and his hard-working team rewarded with another top-ten finish in Race 2 today. Loris paid heavily for his mistake in qualifying, but his strategy today was perfect. Ninth in the Superpole race gave him a much better grid position this afternoon and he rode an intelligent race to sixth place. The Ten Kate team have made huge steps since returning to the championship with Yamaha and I'm sure we'll see Loris challenging for the podium at his home race in Magny-Cours. Overall, it was a very positive weekend for Yamaha at a track where, in the past, the combination of a technical layout and hot conditions bringing unpredictable grip levels has been demanding of both bikes and riders."