Both Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders were involved in a race long battle for the podium in today’s opening WorldSBK encounter in Jerez. But while Michael van der Mark ended the day celebrating a superb run to second place, Alex Lowes was left battered and bruised after Jonathan Rea made an ill-considered attempt to pass Yamaha’s British rider in the last corner on the final lap, as both were disputing third place. GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Marco Melandri, who originally finished today in fourth place, was promoted to third five hours after the chequered flag due to the FIM’s subsequent 1-position penalty being imposed on Rea. Sandro Cortese returned to top ten form with an eighth place finish today, while Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Loris Baz, scored points with a 12th place finish on his Yamaha race debut.
As Championship leader and pole sitter Alvaro Bautista escaped at the front of the race, both Pata Yamaha riders spent the early stages riding in formation, pushing hard to close the gap to Rea in second place. It was van der Mark who caught the reigning champion first, outbraking Rea into the newly named Dani Pedrosa corner at the end of the back straight to move into second place. With a clear track in front of him the Dutchman quickly gapped the Kawasaki rider, who was already coming under intense pressure from the second Pata Yamaha R1.
After some aggressive but fair fighting between the two, Lowes finally made a decisive move with three laps to go, going underneath Rea into turn one to take third place. As the two riders approached the final turn for the last time, Lowes looked to have enough of a lead to ensure he’d claim the last step on the podium at the line. However, Rea misjudged his entry to the corner and made contact with Lowes, hitting the Pata Yamaha rider’s handlebar hard enough to cause him to crash. While Rea remained upright and managed to hold onto third place, Lowes could only remount to finish 16th and out of the points.
The incident was investigated by race direction, with a penalty imposed five hours after the chequered flag that demoted Rea from third to fourth position and saw Melandri awarded with his second podium finish of the season. Rea must also start tomorrow’s Superpole race from the back of the grid, but neither sanction compensated Lowes for the 16 points lost as a result of the last corner incident.
The crash left Lowes nursing a damaged left shoulder and contusions on his left wrist. After an assessment and treatment in the medical centre the Pata Yamaha rider is confident he will be fit to race tomorrow but will undergo a precautionary medical check ahead of warm up.
Van der Mark’s second place today saw him move ahead of Lowes in the championship for the first time this season. The 26-year-old is now third in the standings on 154 points, with Lowes now fourth on 140 points.
Melandri was unable to make the most of his front row start initially, as he struggled during the early stages of the 20-lap race with inconsistent braking. The GRT Yamaha rider recovered to end a run of difficult race weekends with a fourth place finish, which improved to third following the sanctions imposed on Rea. A mistake on the opening lap from Cortese, running wide on the brakes as he tried to make up places, saw the reigning Supersport World Champion initially drop back to 15th place. Cortese managed to fight his way back into the top ten over the course of the 20-lap race, eventually finishing in eighth place.
Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider, Baz, made a points scoring debut aboard a Yamaha R1 that had been rebuilt overnight following his FP2 crash yesterday. The Frenchman finished in 12th position and is confident of improvement in tomorrow’s two races.
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P2
“The bike felt really good in Superpole, but I made a couple of mistakes than cost me a few tenths and that meant I started from the third row of the grid today. I got a good start, managed to make up quite a few places in the opening laps and then quickly settled into a good rhythm as I tried to conserve my tyres. When I passed Alex I was struggling a bit with the front and having to ride a bit differently, but I was still able to close on Johnny and then pass him for second. I tried to pull a gap straight away, but he managed to stay with me for a couple of laps before I could get away from him. The bike was really good today; the guys have done an amazing job and the package has improved, but we still need to find a little more improvement with the front ahead of the two races tomorrow.”
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P16
“Obviously I’m gutted with the eventual outcome of the race. I was struggling with the bike a little bit in the race, which meant I wasn’t able to stay with Michael, but I felt I could be consistent with the pace I had. It was a good battle with Johnny; I felt I was a bit stronger than him and with three laps to go managed to get in front. I put in a good, solid, clean last lap and I felt like I had the beating of Johnny but then he made a big error of judgement in the final corner and took me straight off the bike. It was a decent hit and I’m pretty sore right now. He’s been penalised for the move, but that doesn’t change the fact that I missed out on the podium and 16 really important points, which is a shame. Anyway, there are a few things we can improve on the bike; my pace has been strong all weekend and, luckily, we have two races tomorrow in which to try and make up for today’s loss. A disappointing result, but there are also plenty of positives we can take away from today.”