The second FIM Superbike World Championship race of the opening round at Phillip Island saw Alex Lowes once again fourth at the flag, but this time even closer to the winner - only 0.9 of a second - after 22 intense laps. Michael van der Mark found real improvements with his YZF-R1 race set-up to ride to a strong seventh, two places higher than his Saturday performance and much closer to the podium finishers.
The 4.445km long Phillip Island circuit always delivers close and combative WorldSBK action and the second race of the weekend was every bit as closely fought as the first on Saturday. The new championship Race 2 grid regulations meant that Lowes's fourth place in race one made him the pole position man in race two, and he duly led the race after the opening lap.
Lowes' race one performance had been a boost for his confidence as he starts his second season as an official Yamaha rider, but today he maintained a podium position approaching the final lap, challenged for the win and just came up short on the final few corners.
Lowes was less than a second behind the race winner today and leaves the Australian circuit with 26 championship points, tied for equal third in the official standings - and satisfied with his progression as a World Superbike contender and with the clear improvements in his Pata Yamaha YZF-R1.
New Pata Yamaha Official World Superbike rider Michael van der Mark was solid in his first races for the team, with ninth and seventh place finishes putting him equal seventh overall in the standings.
Van der Mark's crew had made a late set-up change for the second race machine and it paid off well, as Michael finished only 7.307 seconds from the winner and felt that he had taken a good step forward in today's frantic encounter.
Paul Denning - Team Principal
Phillip Island can be a brutal race track, so to leave here with two fully fit riders and four strong finishes is a very positive start to the season. In these two races, Alex has shown that he has become a legitimate contender - fast, consistent and smooth - and this, combined with some good improvements to his YZF-R1, gives us confidence that we can continue to build on this performance. It was perhaps a pity to miss out on a podium - when you have been in second position during the last lap and finish only 0.9 behind the winner, 4th doesn't seem very fair! - but this is really irrelevant compared to the performance itself which we are delighted with, and which frankly exceeded our expectations. Congratulations to Alex, his crew, and the Yamaha staff behind the bike's development - a first class effort. Michael leaves Phillip Island happier than he was yesterday - today he raced really hard and was able to be more consistent and closer to the front group. As he finds his comfort level with the Pata Yamaha, we fully expect him to continue to move forward - he is clearly very fast! It's important that Michael was able to finish two full race distances and score good points - this experience is a solid base from which he and his crew can build, and it is a pleasure to have such a determined racer in the team and part of the Yamaha family.
I felt that I had a good opportunity to get on the podium but when I attacked on the last lap I just struggled more than I expected. Halfway through the race I made a plan to look after the bike and tyre, then pushed back into a 1'31.7 pace near the end, so that took me back to the leading group. The bike was working really well but I was just not fast enough on the second half of the track, and I was not aggressive enough there. That is what cost us a podium, so it's something I have to work on for next year at this track. Apart from that I felt really strong and I was competitive for 44 race laps this weekend. I know the guys have done a fantastic job just improving the R1 in lots of areas. We can be happy with being equal third in the points, it's a good start to the year, and something we can build on as a team. I think I have performed in a better way, not just riding two good races, but in how I have approached the weekend, how I conducted myself, how the team has worked together - I think we have all made a better job and that we have a good base to work from.
Michael van der Mark
I was five seconds closer to the front compared to yesterday and it was easier to ride the bike. At the end I had a race on my own but I was happy because I was still doing consistent lap times and we improved the race performance. Today, in warm-up, we tried something new but I did not feel much of a difference. For the race we made a big change on the bike so I did not know what to expect. I made quite a good start but in the first corner I was a bit caught up with the other guys. The bike immediately felt easier to ride so we made a good improvement for this race, and in the beginning I stayed with the front group. I had a battle with Eugene Laverty but it cost me some time, and after that Tom passed me. I didn't drop too far away from him, and I think I learned a lot about the Yamaha and how I can improve in this race.