TREACHEROUS TRACK CONDITIONS MAKE FOR A TOUGH OPENING DAY IN ARGENTINA
It proved a difficult opening day in Argentina for Michael van der Mark, who had to contend with racing on a track with little to no grip as a result of a fine layer of sand and dirt that covered the entire 4.276km length of the Circuito San Juan Villicum.
While circuit staff deployed brushes and air blowers in an attempt to clean the surface yesterday, their efforts and equipment proved woefully inadequate, with the result that track conditions remained treacherous as the riders took to the track for WorldSBK FP1 this morning. Many riders, having inspected the track immediately prior to the start of the session, opted to sit out most of the 50-minute practice, rather than risk injury on a track where grip was severely compromised by the dirty surface.
Conditions improved slightly for FP2, with a very narrow clean line appearing around the track, but times were still two seconds slower than the same session last year, despite almost perfect weather conditions. Deviation from the cleaned line resulted in a dramatic reduction in grip and a proportional increase in risk, as some riders discovered to their cost today.
With the track set to improve with more laps tomorrow, rendering anything learnt today irrelevant, Van der Mark opted for a cautious approach, rather than risking all by chasing a fast lap time in the unpredictable conditions today.
To aid the teams and riders adapt to the changing track conditions, tomorrow’s third and final free practice session has been extended by 15 minutes.
Michael van der Mark – Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P10 – 1’45.337: “It’s been a difficult opening day for everyone as the conditions were far from ideal because of how dirty the track was. We have to keep working, be patient and stay calm. You can’t go making many changes to the bike as the track is also changing, but at the moment I’m struggling to get the bike turned mid-corner, which is something we need to work on for tomorrow. This afternoon there was a bit more of a clean line, but it was so narrow and you couldn’t afford to drift off it, especially on corner entry. Anyway, as I said, it was the same for everyone and, hopefully, with more laps tomorrow then the situation will improve.”