Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s Alex Lowes put in maximum effort in front of the packed grandstands at Imola on Sunday to secure a top six finish at round five of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship. In a re-started 18 lap race, due to an earlier red flag, his teammate Michael van der Mark also worked to the limit to cross the line in ninth and claim another top ten finish on his Yamaha YZF-R1.
The original race was red-flagged after just one lap; in the re-started 18-lap race Lowes was determined to make an impact. Starting from fifth on the grid the British rider lost a couple of places off the line but passed his teammate for 7th into the first corner. From there, he started to hunt down the riders in front of him and when Leon Camier crashed out of the race, he took over sixth place. He then took advantage of an off-track excursion by Marco Melandri to move up to fifth, but in his effort to catch Xavi Forés in fourth he too ran off track on lap 5 at turn 13, re-joining behind his teammate in seventh.
The two Yamaha riders then enjoyed a great scrap for sixth, with Lowes making a move on lap 10 to re-take the position. The 26-year-old then pushed as hard as he could to catch the riders in front and opened up a gap between himself and his teammate. After a valiant effort, he crossed the line in sixth to pick up 10 championship points, which sees him retain fifth place in the standings with 94 points.
His teammate van der Mark started from 4th on the grid but lost out off the line and found himself in seventh by the first corner. After the early race battle with Lowes for sixth, he became involved in a scrap for seventh with Eugene Laverty in the latter stages. The Dutch rider had made a few changes to his R1 in an effort to close the gap to the guys at the front, but unfortunately it didnt quite pay off as he struggled to find his normal consistent rhythm and Laverty passed the 23-year-old on lap 12.
Fighting as hard as he could van der Mark rode strongly towards the end of the race, but lost out in the last few corners to Jordi Torres, crossing the line in 9th, less than two-tenths behind the Spaniard. In the process, he collected 7 points and now sits seventh in the championship standings with 78 points.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team now head for their home round at Donington Park on the 26-28th of May.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team
“It was a tough race. Obviously, the guys have worked really hard this weekend; it is so easy to look back on a weekend in hindsight and say we could have done this, we could have done that. At Imola we just couldn’t find the performance we needed from the bike, the guys never stopped trying and in the race sixth place was all we could manage. It was a tough race for me, but the least my team deserve is for me to give everything I’ve got until the end. We could only finish sixth, I am reasonably happy as it was the best I could do with what we had, but I am not happy because we were too far from the front. We will try and learn some things from the weekend, and we will be pushing hard at the next round at Donington, which is my home race. I am really looking forward to it.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team
“We struggled quite a lot during the race. This morning I thought we had made a big step forward in Warm Up, but in the race, it didn’t really work out. It was a tough race and it was difficult to be consistent. We knew that it would be difficult, but I was hoping we had made a big step forward. We must be happy with the points and up next is Donington, which will suit the bike better. It is a nice track to ride, so hopefully we can continue the form we had before Imola. We will never stop working to improve, so I am really looking forward to Donington.”
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
“Imola has been a tough circuit for us to master. Everybody involved has tried to improve the performance but at this particular circuit, despite all those efforts, it has been tough to move forward. Sixth position today for Alex was honestly the best we could hope for. He made a small mistake while pushing hard to stay with Forés and Melandri, which is completely forgivable, but recovered really well and rode consistently, and safely, to maximise his points haul. That’s all we can ask for. We tried to move Michael’s performance forward today with adjustments to the chassis setting and by changing the front tyre specification, but ultimately, over race distance it wasn’t a step in the right direction. It was worth taking the risk based on our potential yesterday and now we have more information to allow us to take the next steps. Donington is in two weeks’ time – it’s a circuit which, without any question, will suit the R1s chassis and engine character a lot better and we are really looking forward to getting back to where we know we can be at the team’s home race.”
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