Alex Lowes backed up a sixth-place finish in the Superpole Sprint Race this morning with a hard-fought fourth place in Race 2 at Laguna Seca, to end the weekend as the top-scoring Yamaha rider and to move up to third place in the championship standings. His Pata Yamaha WorldSBK teammate, Michael van der Mark, was unfortunate to miss out on a top ten finish after an incredible start to Race 2 when a technical problem forced his retirement after just four laps.
Lowes got a good start in the 10-lap Superpole sprint race but was forced to do it all again when the race was stopped on the second lap, following a crash at the Corkscrew for Yamaha wildcard rider JD Beach and Honda’s Alessandro Delbianco. Lowes ended he restarted eight-lap sprint race in sixth position, to secure a second row start for Race 2.
Another good start in the feature race saw Lowes immediately embroiled in a battle with Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam for fourth place. The battle continued until just past half race distance when the Pata Yamaha rider made his move to pass Sykes and then pull away from his two pursuers to finish fourth. With 28 points from the three races this weekend, Lowes moved up the championship standings to third place, where he now has a five-point advantage over teammate van der Mark in fourth.
After a crash in qualifying left him 15th on the grid, van der Mark went into the Superpole race determined to finish inside the top nine and secure a starting position on the front three rows of the grid for Race 2. Unfortunately, the Pata Yamaha rider missed out by just one place, finishing the shortened race in tenth position.
A lightning start from the fifth row of the grid saw van der Mark cross the line at the end of the opening lap in tenth place and targeting the group ahead of him battling for fifth. The Pata Yamaha rider’s challenge came to a premature end, however, when a technical problem forced his retirement from the race on lap four.
Loris Baz enjoyed a solid weekend in America, with seventh place in today’s 25-lap feature race making it three top-ten finishes at Laguna Seca for the Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider. The Frenchman moves up to 13th place in the championship standings with 76 points, despite having only contested three of the nine rounds this season.
It proved a more difficult weekend for the GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK riders, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri, but for different reasons. Cortese, making his debut at Laguna Seca this weekend, struggled with the effects of a shoulder injury sustained in his Donington Superpole crash and had to ride through the pain to pick up 2 points in 14th place today.
Melandri fared better, securing his second top ten finish of the weekend in ninth, despite struggling to make up for a starting position on the sixth row of the grid in the early stages of the race. At the halfway point the Italian was matching the lap times of the leading riders, but by that time the gap to the group ahead of him had stretched too far for him to regain contact and he was forced to settle for ninth place at the line.
Alex Lowes – P4 – Championship Position P3 – 220 Points
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK
“It was a fairly decent weekend, at a track at which we have always struggled a bit and were never really on the pace, but unfortunately it was the same for all the Yamahas. This afternoon I felt that I did the best that I could have – the leading trio were just too far ahead for me to make any inroads into their lead – so I’m fairly happy with fourth. The result means I’ve overtaken Michael in the championship standings and I’m now third, but it was a shame he had a problem with the bike today, as he’s done such a great job here and at Donington so soon after his Misano injury. But that’s racing sometimes and it’s certainly going to make for an interesting final four rounds with both of us determined to finish the season in the top three. I’m now looking forward to the Suzuka 8hr with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team, a little bit of time off and then back to WorldSBK at Portimão, a track that suits the R1 well and at which we will try to fight at the front again.”
Michael van der Mark – DNF – Championship Position P4 – 215 Points
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK
“We made some changes for the Superpole race that didn’t quite work as we were expecting, which meant I missed out on the top nine by just one place and had to start Race 2 from the fifth row of the grid. I had a really good start, made some early passes and was up to ninth at the end of the first lap. I felt so much better with the bike, a lot more confident and I could see the group ahead weren’t pulling away from me like they did yesterday. Once I managed to get past Loris Baz, I was feeling pretty comfortable and confident of gaining more places, but then we had a technical problem with the bike and I had to retire. It’s a big shame, because I was feeling better on my R1 than I had all weekend and we lost quite a lot of points. Anyway, we have a fairly long break now, of course including the 8hr race which is always a big challenge, and I’m sure we’ll be back really strong in Portimão – I love the track and I want to be fighting again to win.”