Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes turned around a challenging race weekend in style today the two putting all their race craft into their YZF-R1s to take fourth and fifth respectively in the second race of the Dutch FIM Superbike World Championship round at Assen.
The home crowd were out in force in Assen rooting for their national hero van der Mark and the young Dutchman was determined not to disappoint. A frustrating DNF yesterday had put the motivated Yamaha rider back in 11th on the fourth row of the grid, with a pack of fast riders in front to take on. With turn one of the opening lap of the race out of the way safely, van der Mark got straight down to business, treating the thousands of fans to flashes of orange charging through the pack from the special Alpinestars leathers and R1 livery he wore this weekend for the King’s birthday.
Using his YZF-R1 to full effect he was able to carve from 11th all the way up to fourth, each pass sticking and holding. By lap nine he was less than half a second from third and quick enough to challenge for the podium. Determinedly challenging Chaz Davies for multiple laps, a couple of big ‘moments’ at fast points of the track, combined with intense pain in his right arm following yesterday’s big highside, tempered the run. Van der Mark kept it consistent and took his orange liveried R1 across the line in fourth to the delight of the crowd, signing off in style after a challenging start to a special home race.
Feeling just as motivated and determined as his teammate, British rider Lowes was also relegated to a less than perfect grid start position following yesterday’s race one DNF. Sitting in 15th on the fifth row of the grid, the Cathedral didn’t promise an easy race. Undaunted, and unfazed, Lowes was quick off the line and soon settled into a comfortable race pace, waiting patiently for his moment to strike. A handful of measured moves put him an impressive six positions ahead to ninth by lap 10, chasing down Nicky Hayden in eighth. The American was soon taken and Lowes’ charge continued, mirroring his teammate’s progress as he pushed his YZF-R1 through the pack. Leon Camier and Eugene Laverty were next, taking him past the entire mid-pack.
With just four laps remaining, the gap to van der Mark in fourth was by this point too large, leaving Lowes to bring it home in fifth having put the early weekend challenges behind him and settling his score with the Assen circuit.
Today’s results places Lowes in fifth in the championship standings on 76 points, teammate van der Mark sits in sixth with 62. The team now move to Italy for the Imola round in two weeks time.
“I am pretty happy with that! I did what I could and I was happy with my race pace, every time I overtook a rider I made it stick. I was closing on Chaz Davies, then I had a couple of scary moments at one of the fastest points of the track. It is one of my strongest points at this circuit, so I knew I could make up a lot of time there, but by then the wind had changed and the bike was maybe balanced a little too much towards the rear so the front was in the air. I had a big wobble, after that I decided to do my own race as I had a big gap to the rider behind and to be honest, after yesterday’s crash, the last four or five laps I had so much pain in my arm. The Doctors did a great job to give me some painkillers which allowed me to race, and if you had said I would get fourth position before the race, I would have taken this very happily!”
“Honestly, after Friday and yesterday we needed a good result today. In previous years I have not been as consistent as I wanted to be and this year, it’s something I’ve tried to improve. I have always been fast, just lacking a bit of consistency. Yesterday’s race was hard for me to take as I don’t really know what I did wrong. I felt confident for a top six finish, so today, starting from 15th, I just wanted to do a solid job. We made some changes with the bike; I’m still not fully happy with the setup, and without my mistakes on Friday we could have made the bike a bit better for today. But, to get fifth from 15th on the grid is fantastic and all the hard work the team have put in this weekend is just incredible, that was for them! I am looking forward to starting Imola with hopefully a lot calmer Friday, which should set us up for an even better result.”
Paul Denning, Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“Everybody in the Pata Yamaha Team should be proud of their efforts today – it’s been a really tough weekend! It was always going to be a challenging race from 11th and 15th on the grid, especially with limited track time for Alex after an incredibly difficult Friday and a double DNF yesterday. For Michael’s crew to improve his bike to the point where he could challenge for a podium until very near the end of the race, and for Alex to move forward from a difficult start and achieve a top five result on merit, was a great reward for everybody’s dedication.
This result demonstrates how far forward not just the R1 has evolved, but the project itself. Small steps in the development of the bike and the development of the team’s experience, plus the confidence of the riders, will now make the difference in terms of closing the gap to the podium guys. After today’s result and the promise shown at the other races so far this season, we can be confident that the target is achievable.”