Young Dutch rider Michael van der Mark produced an impressive performance aboard his Honda machine this weekend in the opening round of the Word Superbike championship, securing two podiums and battling for the victory.
Looking confident and comfortable aboard his CBR1000RR, van der Mark used his aggressive yet fair pace and sheer speed from his machine to challenge the dominant Jonathan Rea.
The former World Supersport champion crossed the line in race one on Saturday and went that one step further on Sunday, with a career best second position following final lap drama as Chaz Davies crashed out of the spot on his Ducati.
“I got a great start and found myself behind Tom and Johnny, explains van der Mark. “All I wanted in the first part was to save the tyres, so I let them stay ahead. I didn’t want to lead but I got a good slipstream out of the last corner and passed Rea on the straight. I just tried to do my race at the front but then I saw on the big screen at turn 10 that the group was really big, so I tried to break it a little bit by pushing harder. It did work out, but I knew the last two laps would have been difficult for me.
When Johnny and Chaz passed me I could hold on quite OK, I wasn’t really scared of them pulling away. Chaz tried a couple of moves for the lead and the last one didn’t work well; I tried to stay as close as possible to Jonathan but I made a small mistake, he didn’t so that was it. To finish second today is an amazing result, it’s been a great weekend. We couldn’t have had a better start to the season.”
Experienced team-mate Nicky Hayden had a mixed debut weekend in the WSBK series, as the former MotoGP rider finished in seventh in race one but then narrowly missed out on a podium spot in race two.
Making the switch over from GP tends to be a tough one for riders, particularity with the switch to Pirelli tyres but the American has shown he has the pace to fight for podiums already, as he already has improved his race pace.
Hayden explains his faster pace: “Yesterday was very useful for us because we learned a lot about the bike set up, in order to make our pace last a bit longer. I enjoyed the race, although I was not quite quick enough to get to the front. On the last lap I knew Giugliano was there and I tried to protect my position a little bit going into Lukey Heights, then I kind of missed the line between turn 10 and 11. He squared it up and drove past me; I was trying to open the gas but all I was getting was traction control cutting in.
I should have taken off more traction control in the last two laps. I’m definitely a bit disappointed for not getting onto the podium this time, it would have been great to celebrate my first round with a top 3 finish. Nonetheless, I’m happy to see the bike how competitive the bike is.”