Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark enjoyed a solid opening day at Laguna Seca, with both Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders finishing comfortably inside the top ten. Lowes set his fastest time in today’s second free practice session to end the day eighth, while van der Mark’s time from this morning’s 50-minute session secured him ninth place on the timesheet.
A minor technical issue this morning meant limited track time for Lowes, but that didn’t stop the 28-year-old Briton from leading the way for Yamaha with fourth place at the end of the first 50-minute practice. The time lost this morning meant that Lowes was playing catch up this afternoon, working to refine his race set-up rather than pushing for a one-off fast lap, but he still managed to improve his lap time to end the day eighth overall and less than a second from the top spot.
Van der Mark was also on the pace from the off this morning, finishing one place and just 0.016s behind his Pata Yamaha teammate at the end of FP1. The 26-year-old Dutch rider made some set-up changes to his R1 ahead of FP2 that didn’t bring the improvements expected, which meant he was unable to improve on his previous best lap time and ended the day ninth on combined times.
It was a baptism of fire for Cortese today as, unlike his fellow Yamaha riders, the reigning Supersport World Champion has never previously raced at Laguna Seca. The GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK rider made steady progress in both of today’s sessions, which he finished in 11th place and just over a second off provisional pole.
The bumpy nature of the Laguna Seca track caused some problems for Melandri on the opening day, with the GRT Yamaha rider unable to find a confidence inspiring set-up despite trying a number of different solutions on his R1. The veteran Italian, who announced this week that he will retire at the end of the season, will work through the data with his crew tonight, in a bid to find a solution for tomorrow that will allow him to improve on his 12th place finish today.
It was Loris Baz who ended the opening day as the highest placed Yamaha on the timesheet, with the Ten Kate Yamaha rider improving his lap time by over half a second in FP2 to finish in sixth place.
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P8 – 1’24.212
“Today was pretty positive, despite losing quite a bit of track time this morning to a technical issue with the bike. This afternoon we didn’t push too hard but instead tried a few things on the bike that we didn’t get a chance to test this morning. I feel good on the bike, even if we didn’t put our best set-up together today and, with my best lap coming after just five laps we haven’t really shown our true potential yet. Overall, it was a reasonable day, but we need to work a to find a better front feeling, so I can get the corners set up a little better tomorrow. How you get out of the turns is key to a fast lap here, so that needs to be our focus in the final free practice session tomorrow.”
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – P9 – 1’24.247
“We started quite well this morning, I had a good feeling with the bike, the pace was pretty good, and we knew where we needed to improve. Unfortunately, this afternoon, it seemed that everything we tried didn’t really work as we expected. I was kind of hitting a wall where I couldn’t improve any further, which was a bit frustrating, but I’m confident we can make a step tomorrow once we’ve been through all the data tonight.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P11 – 1’24.405
“Today was a positive start to the weekend, at a track that is completely new to me, and one that is very technical indeed. I always look to the other Yamaha riders as a comparison and, at the moment, the gap is small. But while it’s possible to maintain this pace over two or three laps at the moment, tomorrow we need to work on our race pace as this track is very physically demanding and I’m still riding every lap a little bit differently. I’m confident that once I’ve had a chance to think about it tonight, I can find some improvements tomorrow. It won’t be easy, but I’m already happy to have not lost so much time to the guys at the front, as I expected the gap to be bigger given how difficult this track is and the fact that it’s the first time I’ve raced here.”
GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – P12 – 124.564
“Today was pretty much as I expected. The track is very bumpy, and we know from previous races that this causes me some issues with the bike. We tried many things on the bike, but while the feeling changed the problem remained the same. I would like to feel more comfortable on the bike, but this has been my biggest problem since the start of the season, and one we’re still working to solve. We will continue working and we’ll see where we are tomorrow.”