The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes, together with the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese, head to Thailand this weekend, for round two of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship, determined to build on the strong start they made to the season last time out in Australia.
Van der Mark and Lowes are both looking forward to returning to the Chang International Circuit in Buriram where, just 12 months ago, the two Pata Yamaha riders claimed their first podium finishes of the 2018 season, with van der Mark finishing second and Lowes third.
Lowes heads into the second round of the 2019 season lying fourth in the championship standings with 30 points, having secured three top five finishes during the opening round in Australia. Van der Mark lies fifth in the standings, just a single point behind his Pata Yamaha teammate, having also finished all three races in Australia inside the top five. Both riders head into the Thai weekend with their sights set firmly on the podium.
Third in the championship standings with 30 points, and currently the leading Yamaha rider, is Melandri. The Italian veteran got his 2019 season off a flying start in Australia with a third place finish in the opening race, to give the GRT Yamaha squad a first podium finish on their WorldSBK debut. Melandri is keen to repeat this success this weekend in Thailand, a track he likes a lot.
While Cortese knows the Chang International Circuit, having finished just off the podium in the WorldSSP race a year ago, this year the German will experience it aboard the Yamaha YZF-R1 for the first time. A strong start to his WorldSBK career in Australia, where he achieved his goal of a top ten finish in each of the three races, means Cortese heads to Thailand fully motivated for the weekend ahead.
The Chang International Circuit was opened in 2014 and made its debut on the WorldSBK calendar the following year. Located in Buriram, the ‘City of Happiness’, 400km south west of Thailand’s capitol city Bangkok, the 4.544km circuit features a combination of seven right and five left corners with two long straights.
While the circuit itself is not particularly technical, the tropical heat and humidity in Thailand adds to the challenge for both the riders and their crews. This weekend the temperature in Buriram is predicted to reach almost 40 degrees centigrade, with humidity of around 80 percent, making for difficult conditions in all three races.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK
“Buriram is always a fun place to race for WorldSBK. It’s an interesting place to visit, very different to Europe, and the people are both passionate and welcoming. The Chang International Circuit isn’t that technical; the first part is all about speed and the second part is more twisty, with each corner leading into the next. After a solid start in Australia I’m looking forward to building more momentum this weekend and challenging for the podium in all three races in Thailand. It’s going to be hot and humid, which always adds to the challenge, but that’s something I enjoy.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK
“I’m looking forward to the race weekend in Thailand. I was second in race two last year, with Alex also on the podium, so I’m happy to come back to Thailand again. It’s a completely different track to Phillip Island, but it’s one I always enjoying riding at, especially in front of the passionate and enthusiastic Thai fans. The weather forecast is promising hot weather for the weekend, which adds to the challenge for both the riders and the crew as we work to set up the bike, but I like it a lot when it’s hot!”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK
“I’m really happy to head back to Thailand. It’s a track I like a lot, even if it’s not the most technical circuit on the calendar. On paper it’s possibly not the best track for us, as there are two long straights and we still miss a little in this area, but I think the high temperatures we are expecting this weekend could play in our favour. I’m feeling good and confident after the opening round in Australia and my feeling is getting better day by day with both the bike and the team, so let’s get started and see what happens. It will also be interesting how things go with no prior testing at the Chang International Circuit, to see if everyone is as fast as they were at Phillip Island. I’m excited to get the weekend started.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK
“I can’t wait to get back to Thailand. Last year was my first time at the Chang International Circuit, but obviously I was racing in WorldSSP. Now I head back to race there in WorldSBK and I’m looking forward to seeing how the R1 feels on this track. I will just try to learn as quickly as I can. We don’t have the test prior to the race weekend like we had in Australia for the opening round of the season, which will make it a bit more difficult to find a good initial set up. But in Phillip Island we were working in a good direction and achieved our goal of finishing all three races inside the top ten, so I’m sure that we can continue working in the same way this weekend in Thailand. The heat will be a major factor, with the forecast promising extremely high temperatures, but I’m completely motivated for the weekend ahead, so let’s see how it goes.