It is Lowes who holds the advantage in the championship podium fight, with the 29-year-old Briton currently third in the standings with an advantage of just a single point over his teammate, van der Mark. But the two Pata Yamaha riders won't have it all their own way this weekend in Qatar, as on form Toprak Razgatlioglu has closed to within six points of Lowes in the standings courtesy of three podium finishes last time out in Argentina.
Lowes was a podium finisher in Qatar last year, finishing third in WorldSBK Race 1, but it was teammate van der Mark who stepped onto the championship rostrum in third place, following the cancellation of Race 2 due to adverse weather conditions. Lowes would like nothing more than to sign off four years aboard the Pata Yamaha YZF-R1 with a top three finish in the championship but van der Mark and Razgatlioglu will be out to thwart the Briton's ambitions this weekend.
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri, head to the Middle East determined to make amends for a disappointing outing last time out in Argentina. Melandri, who has endured a difficult season since finishing on the podium in the opening race at Phillip Island, will be hoping for a change in fortune in Qatar, his final race weekend before retirement.
Saturday evening's WorldSBK Race 2 in Qatar will be an emotional moment for Melandri, as the chequered flag will bring to an end a racing career unmatched by any other rider on the current WorldSBK grid. The Italian burst onto the world scene as a 15-year-old, winning the 125cc World Championship race at Assen in his debut season to become the youngest ever Grand Prix winner, a record that stood for a decade. The highlight of Melandri's long and distinguished career is undoubtedly the 250cc World Championship title he won in 2002, but he has also won races in every single class he's contested, including MotoGP, the pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport.
Loris Baz is another rider heading to Qatar hoping for a change in fortune. The Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider was forced to sit out WorldSBK Race 1 in Argentina as a result of a hand injury sustained in a qualifying crash. The Frenchman then crashed out of the Superpole Race on Sunday morning before salvaging his weekend with a points scoring finish in WorldSBK Race 2 later the same day. Baz has been focused on recovery ahead of the Qatar weekend, where he will resume his quest for a maiden podium finish aboard the Ten Kate Yamaha YZF-R1.
The Losail International Circuit is located 30km north of Doha, the capital city of Qatar, and is unique in that it plays host to the only night race on the WorldSBK calendar. The 5.38km track is made up of ten right and six left-hand corners with a start finish straight that is over a kilometre in length.
A mix of fast-flowing corners and slower technical sections, the circuit is a firm favourite with riders and fans, both of which enjoy the challenge and spectacle of racing under floodlights.
The Qatar race weekend follows a different schedule than most, with action taking place in the early evening from Thursday to Saturday. The Yamaha WorldSBK riders will take to the track for Free Practice 1 on Thursday afternoon at 17.00 local time, with qualifying scheduled for 17:30 on Friday. Race 1 on Friday and Race 2 on Saturday are both scheduled to get underway at 20.00 in the evening, with lights out for the Superpole Sprint Race at 16.00 on Saturday afternoon.