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Yamaha Riders Revved up and Ready for Imola Challenge

The Pata Yamaha WorldSBK and GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK teams return to action this weekend at the historic Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, the venue for Round 5 of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend. Pata Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark heads to Italy looking to build on the success of two podium finishes last time out in Assen, while teammate Alex Lowes, four times a top three finisher already this season, has his sights set firmly on adding to his podium tally. After three difficult rounds, GRT Yamaha’s Marco Melandri is looking to rediscover his form at his home race in Imola, a track at which he finished on the podium last season. The long break between Assen and Imola worked in Sandro Cortese’s favour, with the German now almost fully recovered from the shoulder injury sustained in a high-speed qualifying crash in Assen.

All four Yamaha riders are hoping for better conditions in Imola than they experienced four weeks ago in Assen, where snow forced the cancellation of Saturday afternoon’s schedule and saw both feature races contested on the Sunday. The Dutch fans who braved the bitterly cold conditions were rewarded with a superlative performance from home hero van der Mark, who secured his first podium finish of the 2019 season with third place in Race 1. In Race 2 van der Mark secured Yamaha’s best result of the season to date, getting the better of a battle with reigning World Champion, Jonathan Rea, to finish second. It’s a performance that the Pata Yamaha rider is keen to repeat this weekend in Imola, a track that hasn’t been a particularly good hunting ground for him in the past.

Lowes heads into the Imola weekend looking for a return to the podium, having narrowly missed out in Assen, where he twice finished fourth. With four podium finishes to his name already this season, Lowes is the leading Yamaha rider, with the 28-year-old Briton currently lies third in the championship standings with 126 points, a position he is keen to consolidate with three strong race results this weekend in Italy.

Having struggled with set-up issues in Thailand, Aragon and Assen, GRT Yamaha’s Melandri heads into his home race weekend in a more confident mood, following a limited but positive two-day test at the Autodromo dell’Umbria in Magione. Imola has been a successful track for Melandri in the past and the veteran Italian heads into this weekend determined to rediscover the form that saw him finish on the podium in the opening race of the season in Australia.

A 240 km/h crash in qualifying last time out in Assen left Cortese nursing an injured right shoulder and forced the reigning Supersport World Champion to ride through the pain barrier to collect points in both races. During the four weeks since Assen, Cortese has been in full recovery mode, undergoing physiotherapy on the shoulder injury in a bid to be fully fit for Imola. The German rider is confident that his recovery has been successful and that the shoulder won’t give him any problems aboard the GRT Yamaha R1, as he targets top ten finishes this weekend in Italy.

The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola hosted its first motorcycle race in 1953 and in the intervening years has become a firm favourite with riders and race fans alike. Located 40km East of Bologna, the circuit is named in honour of the founder of Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari, and his son Dino. Fast and technical, the 4.936km track combines high-speed turns with a number of chicanes in a layout that challenges both riders and machines and is one of the few circuits on the WorldSBK calendar that runs in an anti-clockwise direction.

Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK

“We’ve had quite a long break since the last round in Assen, so I can’t wait to race again this weekend. Imola is a circuit with different characteristics again and, although the results in the past weren’t all that great, we made a big step forward last year in Race 2. With that in mind, and with the improvements we’ve made to the bike this season already, I think we can be competitive at this circuit. The weekend can’t come quick enough for me!”

Alex Lowes
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK

“The first races this season have been really strong for us and I’m enjoying racing; we’re improving with every race and my feeling with the team and the bike is improving all the time. You never want three weeks off from racing, but it’s been good to recharge the batteries, focus on some areas where we need to improve going into the next three races in Imola, Jerez and Misano. Imola is a fantastic track with loads of character and quite a few changes of elevation. In terms of the bike, we need to get it set up on the brakes for the chicanes, but we also have to focus on corner exit; getting the bike out of the turns as fast as we can. I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to get back to work, building on the results from the first part of the season.”

Marco Melandri
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK

“I’m really looking forward to returning to Imola, as it’s one of the most beautiful tracks we race at during the season. It’s a very technical track, very difficult actually, but with the long break after Assen we’ve had a chance to think about how we can improve, so I’m sure in Imola this weekend we will start from a different level compared to the previous few races.”

Sandro Cortese
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK

“I can’t wait to get back to racing at Imola. It’s been a long break, but that’s been to my advantage because it allowed me time to recover from the big crash in Assen. At the moment I’d say my shoulder is at about 90% but I’m working a lot on my recovery with physiotherapy and the strength is coming back. I’m confident that, come FP1 on the Friday, the shoulder won’t be a problem and I’m looking forward to getting back to work in Imola.”

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