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Strong Start for Lowes on Opening Day at Donington Park

Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider, Alex Lowes, got his home race weekend off to a flying start at Donington Park, ending the opening day in second place and only missing out on topping the timesheet by the narrowest of margins. Incredibly, teammate Michael van der Mark made his return to action today, just ten days after undergoing surgery on a fractured right radius. The Pata Yamaha rider ended the day in 11th position but is confident of improvement tomorrow.

Lowes was quickly up to speed in FP1 this morning, which he finished in third place despite a high-speed crash at the infamous Craner Curves towards the end of the 50-minute session. The 28-year-old Briton and his crew made small set-up changes for the second free practice session this afternoon, in which Lowes improved his lap time by over half a second, to end the day in second place and just 0.018s behind compatriot Tom Sykes.

It was a tentative van der Mark who exited pit lane to test his injured right wrist in FP1 this morning, but the 26-year-old experienced no pain from the injury and complained only of slightly restricted mobility on his return to the pit box after his first run. Despite the cautious start van der Mark was an impressive fifth at the end of the 50-minute session. The Pata Yamaha rider was unable to improve his lap time as he worked on refining the set-up of his R1 in FP2 this afternoon but is confident of improvement ahead of WorldSBK Race 1 tomorrow.

Cortese discovered once again today just how different a circuit looks from behind the screen of the Yamaha R1 compared to the R6 Supersport machine he rode to victory at Donington Park 12 months ago. The 29-year-old ended FP1 in 14th position, but then made a significant improvement in FP2, as he quickly adapted to the demands of racing a Superbike around the unforgiving Donington circuit, to end the day in seventh position.

It proved a difficult opening day for Melandri, who struggled with front-end chatter in both free practice sessions today. It proved frustrating for the Italian, as the chatter meant he was unable to make any headway with the set-up of his R1 at a track he rates as one of his strongest and the one at which he took his first ever WorldSBK race win aboard the Yamaha R1 back in 2011. Melandri is hopeful that he and his crew will find a solution tonight, ahead of Superpole and Race 1 tomorrow.”

Alex Lowes
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P2 – 1’27.751

“it’s great to be here and riding in front of my home crowd. I feel really good on the bike, even with the little tip off this morning. I say little, but you don’t have a small crash at Craner Curves. It was my mistake; I crashed on a cold tyre after a slow lap, so sorry to the guys for giving them some unexpected extra work today. This afternoon the bike felt good again, but I still want to improve the braking phase a bit more tomorrow, to give me a little more margin. It’s been a positive day, I’m happy with where we are and it’s also good to see Michael back on the bike so soon after his injury. It shows just how tough he is.”

Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P11 – 1’28.529

“I think I was more nervous ahead of FP1 today than I am before a race. I was pretty confident the injury wouldn’t be a problem, but you never really know until you’re actually on the bike. I felt good on the bike from the start, with no pain, but I am missing a little bit of mobility, which means I can’t move around the bike quite so well. Every lap I was feeling a bit better but I’m not as smooth as normal and that made it a little difficult to get the bike set-up. In the afternoon we tried to improve the bike, to make it a little smoother and easier to ride and, while I didn’t manage to improve my lap time, this wasn’t really the goal. I did a lot more laps than I was expecting today; this morning before FP1 I would have been happy to pick up some points in the races, but now I think we can target the top ten.”

Sandro Cortese
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P7 – 1’28.235

“The difference between riding Donington on a Superbike compared to the Supersport bike is huge, which means I’ve had quite a difficult first day adapting and learning the lines on the R1. This is a difficult track because if you mess up turn one then you mess up virtually your whole lap, because it’s one rhythm, but step by step we understood what we have to do. We worked on the tyre choice and also on the set-up, because I was feeling better after every run and we had to change the settings to reflect that. The rhythm is not quite there to lap at the same pace consistently for race distance, so this is what we need to work on tomorrow. Learning a new track on the R1 takes some time, but I think we’re in a good position now for tomorrow.”

Marco Melandri
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P13 – 1’28.631

“Today was a difficult day because I was struggling so much with chatter; in the fast corners, in the slow corners, everywhere. Until we fix this problem it’s difficult to understand how we can improve, because I can’t really ride how I want to. So, not an easy day, but we’ll look for a solution overnight and try again tomorrow.”