The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team rounded off a superb weekend in Jerez by completing another double top-six finish in a dramatic restarted Race 2, on a gloriously sunny Sunday at the penultimate round of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship. Alex Lowes rode one of his best races of the season, showing incredible pace in the latter stages to charge to fourth and miss out on the podium by just 0.650s. His teammate Michael van der Mark led in both the original and restarted race, getting involved in a number of spectacular battles with the leading riders before crossing the line in sixth after suffering from a loss of rear grip late on.
Lowes started Sunday’s Race 2 from pole position following on from his fourth-place finish in Race 1 on Saturday. When the lights went out, he made a good start and settled in behind his teammate van der Mark in second before the red flag was shown on the opening lap. In the restarted 19-lap race, Lowes entered the first corner in second behind van der Mark in a carbon copy of the original start. The teammates battled together on the opening lap before Jonathan Rea passed them both for the lead, with Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies also getting past Lowes, as the 27-year-old patiently took his time to find a good feeling with his harder option front tyre, whilst battling with the top riders in the championship. The British rider had focused on working on his late-race pace the whole weekend, realising that the abrasive new surface at Jerez would reward consistency in the latter stages. Lowes completed a 21-lap race simulation in FP2 on Friday, a strategy that clearly helped as halfway through the race he was able to improve his lap times and from fifth, started to close down the riders ahead of him.
On lap 11 his teammate ran wide after contact with Tom Sykes and Lowes needed no more invitation, with the 2013 British Superbike Champion taking advantage to pass van der Mark and then setting his sights on closing the two-second gap to the podium battle ahead of him. Relentlessly he hunted down the top 3 riders in a blistering display of riding but, unfortunately for Lowes, he just ran out of laps, eventually crossing the line in fourth only 0.650s behind Davies in third and 4.624s off the race winner. This result means Lowes has 226 points and retains fifth in the championship standings with just two races remaining and he is confident he will be in the hunt for the podium once more at the final round in Qatar.
Completing a Yamaha 1-2 on the grid, van der Mark got a blistering start from second in the original race and led until the red flag appeared. In Race 2 he managed to grab the holeshot again, leading for the majority of the first lap before Rea passed him. He then became involved in one of the best battles of the season with Melandri, with both riders passing each other repeatedly in an enthralling fight that lasted for more than five laps. The 24-year-old Dutch rider got the better of the Italian, until Sykes made contact with him in Turn 9 with nine laps to go, forcing him wide and letting Melandri through.
Soon afterwards he made a small mistake as he started to suffer from a lack of rear grip, allowing Sykes through and dropping down to sixth, but the 2014 World Supersport champion once again rode maturely to ensure that, despite struggling in the last few laps as his grip issue worsened, he brought his Pata Yamaha R1 home in a superb sixth to add to his fifth-place finish in Race 1. This sees van der Mark sixth in the championship standings with 210 points, just 16 behind his teammate, and full of confidence heading into the final round in Qatar.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action, keen to finish the year in the strongest fashion possible, at the final round of the season in Losail from the 2nd-4th November.
“Honestly, my R1 was really good today! The first six laps I was too slow and couldn’t find the front grip I needed but in the second half of the race I was quite strong. We worked really hard this weekend and I did the best I could, so we have to be happy. Two fourth places are nice and hopefully, we can get that podium I wanted in Qatar instead, but it has been a really good day and I have enjoyed it. I tried to work on my pace for the second half of the race, as I knew the new surface would come into play, so I have worked all weekend to make sure I was strong at the end of the race and tried to catch a podium that way. It obviously worked as my pace was strong, so I have to be happy with that and with the work the team has done because we had a plan and we carried it out and it worked pretty well., Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough today but at the next race hopefully it will be. We have put the work in and we are starting to see some of the rewards for it. I am a racer, I want to win but I know that all of the races and the hard work we are doing now gives us more of a chance to do just that in future, and I look forward to seeing what we can do in Qatar!”
Michael van der Mark
“I had a really good first start and took the holeshot but then the red flag came out and we had to wait. I had another good start in the restarted race, I was leading the first lap before Jonathan Rea got past me. I tried to follow him but I was struggling. I had a better feeling with the softer front tyre but I couldn’t quite get the bike turned as well as the other guys. I had fought so hard to try and get the podium and I had some really nice battles but Marco Melandri made contact with me at Turn 9 and I ran wide, which allowed Alex to get past. I then made another little mistake and Tom Sykes got past me as well and I just couldn’t quite match their pace. I tried so hard right until the end and it was difficult but we recorded another top-six finish and secured some good championship points. Hopefully, in Qatar, we can fight for the podium again and finish the season on a high. The team has made great progress this year! At the beginning of the season, we had some ups and downs and rounds where I was fast and others where Alex was fast. Now we come to every track and we are both fast, which shows how much amazing progress we have made and I think Qatar is a track that will suit the R1 as well, so hopefully, we can show our full potential there!”