The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team are looking to step back on to the rostrum at Round 4 of the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend in Assen, fresh from a solid points-haul at last weekend’s Motorland Aragon event, part of the only back-to-back races of the season. Alex Lowes battled hard throughout the weekend in Spain to secure a seventh and a fourth-place finish that sees him fifth in the overall championship standings after six races. The podium finisher in Buriram really enjoys the historic TT Circuit Assen, as it is a fast and flowing track that suits his riding style and usually delivers some excellent racing action. For his teammate Michael van der Mark – who is sixth in the championship standings, just three points behind his teammate – it is always a special occasion racing at his home round. Having secured a superb second-place finish in Race 2 at Buriram, he followed that up with a double top-five finish in Aragon and is hoping to build on the pace he has shown at each round this season to battle for the podium in front of the Dutch fans.
Lowes comes into the race weekend at Assen on the back of his best-ever start to a WorldSBK season, having taken 70 points from the first three rounds in 2018, with his undoubted pace now matched by excellent consistency. The 27-year-old British rider demonstrated this with two hard-fought and mature rides at Aragon where, once again, he maximised his potential, banking 22 championship points despite not having the perfect setup with his Pata Yamaha R1. A DNF in Race 1 at Assen in 2017 saw him mount a stunning charge from 15th on the grid to cross the line in fifth in Race 2. The 2013 British Superbike Champion has previous form at the historic TT Circuit Assen after recording his maiden WorldSBK podium at the track during his debut season in 2014. Lowes has not finished outside of the top seven all season and wants to build on this consistency with a return to the podium at a track that rewards bravery and suits his riding style.
To race in front of the passionate Dutch fans at the TT Circuit Assen is always a memorable occasion for Michael van der Mark, and after another strong weekend in Aragon where he returned two fifth-place finishes, he feels there is more to come at his home round. The 25-year-old also recorded a DNF in Race 1 at Assen last season but he bounced back in sensational style in Race 2, thrilling the home fans by fighting his way through the field from the middle of the fourth row to battle for the podium before finishing in fourth. He has an excellent record at the TT Circuit Assen, including a victory in WorldSSP and three WorldSBK podiums to his name, and a return to the rostrum at the track is his target in 2018. The 2014 WorldSSP Champion has enjoyed a strong start to the year and sits sixth in the championship standings with 67 points, 18 more than he had at the same stage in 2017, highlighting the improvements he and the team have made in their second season together.
The Assen TT Circuit is located to the northeast of The Netherlands – approximately 170km from Amsterdam – and remains a firm favourite amongst the WorldSBK Championship’s riders and fans alike. Its high-octane nature mixes 18 corners with a longest straight of just 300m, usually providing breathtaking and thrilling racing around its 4.542km clockwise layout, with the final chicane the scene of many memorable last-lap battles. The legendary racing venue – known as ‘The Cathedral’ of motorcycle racing – first hosted a race back in 1925 and has been a permanent fixture on the WorldSBK calendar since 1992.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team will hit the track for Free Practice 1 on Friday at 9:45 am (CEST) local time, while qualifying is due to start at 10:30 am on Saturday ahead of Race 1 at 1:00 pm, with Sunday’s Race 2 also scheduled for 1:00 pm.
Alex Lowes: “The TT Circuit Assen is a place I always enjoy going to and riding. The Dutch fans are some of the most knowledgeable and passionate that you get to race in front of the whole season. The track itself is a lot of fun to ride, especially the really fast and flowing second half, which really suits my style and the R1. It is always a big weekend in Assen, with lots of extra pressure on Michael at his home round just as I always feel in the UK but, if anything, this just motivates us more and I am looking forward to a strong weekend for me and the whole Pata Yamaha team.”
Michael van der Mark: “I really can’t wait for my home round because it is always a special race for me, getting to ride in front of the Dutch fans, and it looks like the weather will be great too. I have a good history at the TT Circuit Assen and really enjoy riding here, so I hope to reward the fans and team with a good performance. The base feeling I have with my Yamaha R1 is good so hopefully, we can make another step in Assen and build on the pace we have shown so far this season to fight for the podium!”
Photo Credit: Yamaha Racing