Michael van der Mark returned to the WorldSBK podium for the first time since his race win in Jerez back in June at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão today. The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider bounced back from a difficult qualifying session to impress with an incredible ride from tenth place on the grid to the third step of the podium in Race 1.
A lightning start from tenth place on the grid, followed by aggressive overtaking in the opening laps, saw van der Mark quickly close onto the back of Chaz Davies in second place, with the pair having already pulled out a significant gap on the pursuing pack. The Dutchman made an early move for second place with a brave pass around the outside of the Welshman in the final turn, but Davies was able to draft past on the straight to reclaim the position. Van der Mark maintained the gap for the remainder of the race but lacked the necessary extra pace to mount a further challenge and had to settle for third at the chequered flag. The result moves van der Mark back up to third in the championship standings, just two points ahead of his Pata Yamaha teammate, Alex Lowes.
After a difficult start and a hectic opening lap, Lowes also looked to have podium potential today, as he chased and caught the leading group in the opening stages of the race. Unfortunately, at half race distance, the Pata Yamaha rider started to struggle for rear grip and was unable to continue the battle for fourth place with Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu. After losing a further place to Alvaro Bautista, who was fighting his way back after a first corner incident, Lowes eventually took seventh place and solid points at the line.
Sandro Cortese surprised even himself with a superb Superpole performance that saw the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider starting Race 1 from third place, on the front row of the grid. The reigning Supersport World Champion’s goal today was to secure a top eight finish in the race and to rediscover the form he enjoyed prior to his qualifying crash at Donington Park. Cortese managed to maintain contact with the leading group initially but lost the tow after almost losing the front and then watching Tom Sykes and Loris Baz crash in front of him after ignoring similar warnings. Cortese eventually finished eighth to achieve his goal.
Marco Melandri followed his GRT Yamaha teammate home in ninth place and was disappointed not to finish higher up the order after qualifying eighth on the grid. The veteran Italian had a better feeling with the bike in Superpole this morning, but rising track temperatures this afternoon meant he faced the same grip issues in the race that have plagued him in recent rounds and he was unable to stay with the leading group after a busy opening lap.
The day started well for Loris Baz, with the Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider finishing third in the final free practice session this morning but, unfortunately, it went downhill from there. A crash in Superpole during his first run on qualifying tyres meant the Frenchman started Race 1 today from the fifth row of the grid. Pushing hard from the start to make up places, Baz lost the front and crashed at turn eight just six laps in. The Ten Kate Yamaha rider managed to remount and rejoin the race, which he eventually finished just out of the points in 16th place.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P3
“It’s not been an easy weekend and I struggled to get a good feeling with the bike in free practice. I was a bit unlucky in Superpole, where I made a small mistake, with the result that I only qualified in tenth position – so I knew a good start in the race was vital today. In the end I just went for it and managed to make up quite a few places in the first few corners, after which I was able to push on and catch Chaz in second. I made an early move around the outside him of the last turn, but he was able to blast past me on the straight and I didn’t quite have the pace to go after him again at the end. But I’m happy to be back on the podium in the first race after the summer break and it’s a nice reward for all the hard work the team have put in to get us here.”
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P7
“I didn’t get the best start and the opening lap was quite hectic, but once it settled down a bit my pace was quite good, and I was able to stay in the group filling second to seventh places. I felt okay, but after around 11 laps I started to struggle quite badly for grip, making it difficult to get into and out of the corners because the bike was sliding so much. I went for a different tyre to most of the others, as I had a better feeling with it yesterday, but it backfired on us a little bit today. I couldn’t do much more at the end, other than to ride to the finish and pick up points for seventh. Not easy, but we’ve certainly got some ideas on how we can improve things for tomorrow.”