VAN DER MARK AND YAMAHA HISTORY IN WORLDSBK RACE 1 AT DONINGTON PARK
It was a historic Saturday at Round 6 of the 2018 Motul FIM World Superbike Championship at Donington Park for Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s Michael van der Mark as the flying Dutchman stormed to his maiden WorldSBK victory in Race 1 after a sensational ride. Starting from 6th on the grid, he battled at the front throughout the race before taking the lead on lap 15 and showing blistering pace to secure the first ever WorldSBK victory for a Dutch rider, plus the first for Yamaha since its return to WorldSBK in 2016.
After the torrential rain and high winds that had affected Friday at Donington Park, Saturday saw an upturn in the weather with no sight of rain and track temperatures rising to 30˚C for Race 1. The last time Yamaha had tasted victory in the WorldSBK Championship came in Race 2 at Portimao in 2011 at the penultimate round of the season, before Yamaha spent four seasons away from the class. Since their return in 2016 with the Pata Yamaha team, they have gone on to secure ten podiums although victory had managed to escape their grasp but all of that was about to change on Saturday at Donington Park!
Van der Mark ended Friday’s practice in sixth overall but his crew made a few minor changes to his Pata Yamaha R1 overnight and, aided by the better conditions, he immediately improved his pace to finish the morning’s FP4 session in fourth with a 1:28.180. When it came to SP2, he found another step, improving by 0.708s to set a 1:27.472 and qualify in sixth for Race 1 but the best was yet to come. When the lights went out, the 25-year-old Dutch rider got his trademark blistering start and was up to fourth by the first corner. He then enjoyed a good battle with his teammate Lowes, passing him before they started lap 2 and setting his sights on Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes ahead of him. Never letting the two Kawasaki’s getaway, his pace improved as the race went on. The pressure he was exerting on the front two began to tell as the race progressed and they were struggling to keep Van der Mark at bay. On lap 13, a small mistake by Rea left the tiniest of gaps for him to take advantage of and the 2014 WorldSSP Champion did not need a second invitation.
Up next was pole-man Sykes but Van der Mark made short work of him too, pulling off another super overtaking manoeuvre at the Melbourne Hairpin on lap 15. With a clear track ahead of him, he ‘pulled the pin’ and showed his true race pace, opening up a one second advantage over Sykes in just one lap. Controlling his lead beautifully, not even a late charge by Rea could shake van der Mark out of his rhythm and he kept his cool to secure his maiden WorldSBK victory by 1.136s. In the process, he rewrote the record books by becoming the first Dutch rider to ever win a WorldSBK race, plus it also saw Yamaha return to the top step of the podium for the first time in just under seven years and he was the first non-British rider to win at Donington Park since 2012. It was just reward for the commitment shown by the whole Pata Yamaha team have put in over the last three seasons and the 25 points van der Mark collected means he is now fourth in the WorldSBK Championship standings with 138 points, just 15 points behind Sykes in third. He will line up in ninth on the grid for Sunday’s Race 2, hoping to repeat his Race 1 heroics.
Michael van der Mark: “It’s an incredible feeling to win again! This morning I felt good, I had a good pace with the bike and we didn’t change a lot from yesterday and, to be honest, nobody had a lot of dry track time. SP2 was alright, we finished sixth and I felt good. For the race, I had a good start and made my way up to the front. I was behind Tom and Jonathan and tried to follow them to pull away from the other guys and at a certain point, we had a safe enough gap to the riders behind. Jonny and Tom were fighting, Jonny made a small mistake and as I closed on Tom, I could see he was struggling. I spotted an opportunity to pass him and pull away and then towards the end Johnny came really, really close but it was amazing to take the first victory for myself and, of course, the first victory for Yamaha since their return. They have been in this project now for three years in WorldSBK and it feels incredible to bring them their first victory, especially at the team’s home race. The whole team did an amazing job and it was worth the wait. In Race 2, I will start from ninth on the grid and Donington can be tricky to overtake, so we just have to be lucky, get a good start and try and fight for the podium again.”
After a simply amazing day for Van der Mark the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team at Donington on Saturday, they are ready to do it all again on Sunday. The action kicks off at 9:45 am local time (GMT+1) with Warm Up, while the 23-lap Race 2 is due to start at 1:00 pm.