Michael van der Mark

WorldSBK Finale At Qatar: The Battle For Third

Argentina showed again just how tight the battle for third in the WorldSBK title will be. The championship battle gets the attention but don't underestimate how much the scrap for third can be worth

Three riders, one prize. The fight for the bronze medal of the 2019 WorldSBK campaign will go down to the wire in Qatar. Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlioglu are split by just six points, and while the Turk is the form man, don't rule anything out in the desert.

All three riders - a British Superbike champion, a WorldSSP champion and a WorldSBK race winner - are consumed by a need to be the best. They want to win. Fighting for third isn't where they want to be, but it has to be their target for 2019. The future will almost certainly hold title challenges but for now it's about doing the best possible and beating each other.

The WorldSBK grid is stacked. It's not enough to be doing a good job, you have to do a great job on every lap of every day to be able to fight at the front. These riders can be upset with a top five finish because they expect more from themselves. When you talk to engineers inside the paddock, however, they'll point to the consistency needed to be a leading rider. This is a world championship and the gap between it and other series can be huge. In WorldSBK to be at the front you have to maximise everything.

Teammate tussles

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Steve English Suzuka 8 Hours Blog: The Best Team Won, But Was That The Right Result?

The 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours was the greatest race I’ve witnessed in the flesh. It was tremendous from start to finish...it was just the extra time that left a bitter aftertaste.

With only one lap remaining we had witnessed the greatest spectacle imaginable. Three teams - Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda - had treated us to a feast of great racing. With the eight hour mark in sight we had seen twenty lead changes, and up until the final half hour all three teams were within 30 seconds of each other. Suzuka is always reckoned to be a series of sprint races wrapped up as an endurance outing but this race truly was just that.

It was unbelievable. Standing trackside I just wanted to get back inside to watch it on the TV and fully understand what was happening. If you believe that you’d believe anything. I was sweating so much in the heat that I was running dangerously low of bodily fluids but even in that state of reduced mental capacity I could see this was an all-time classic.

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Adapt and survive at Suzuka – How to win as a team

Ego is a crucial part of the successful makeup of any world class racer. They need to have the belief that they are faster than everyone else on the grid. That they can do things that no one else can. That they’re the man for the job. What happens though when you’re forced to check that ego at the garage door? Having that ability can be the difference between winning and losing in Endurance race.

Adapt and survive. It’s rule of law in the natural world but it’s also the only way to be successful in endurance racing. Being a team and working together is the key success at the Suzuka 8 Hours. If you’re Yamaha Factory Racing Team rider Michael van der Mark, you know this better than most.

The Dutch star might be a four-time Suzuka winner, a WorldSBK race winner, and a World Supersport champion but he’s also cast in an unusual role in Japan; the outlier.

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Jerez WorldSBK Round Up: Pressure Plays Strange Tricks

In racing you’re either under pressure or you’re applying pressure. The one thing proven over the years is that pressure will do strange things to a rider. The tension that comes from pressure and your reaction can lead to mistakes and Jerez showed that once again. We saw crashes and cool heads from riders under pressure.

Some riders are at their best when the pressure is at its most, others struggle in those moments and some make their mistakes when the pressure valve is relieved. On Saturday we saw Jonathan Rea make the mistake of a rider who has been seeing a world title slip away after round by round domination of Alvaro Bautista. On Sunday it was Bautista’s turn to make the mistake of a rider out in front. With two Jerez wins already in the bag he would have been feeling secure that another hat-trick was on the cards. Between these two riders stood Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman was peerless in race trim at the Spanish circuit and never put a foot wrong over the 50 racing laps. His reward were three podiums and his first win of the campaign.

Top level sport is 90% mental. The differences in outright talent levels aren’t that significant - they can’t be when you’re looking at the best in the world. The differences are subtle. It’s hard work, dedication and the mental game that separates the great from the very good. A slice of luck doesn’t hurt but you can’t rely on the rub of green on a consistent basis!

Seek and destroy

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Questions And Answers

After one chilled and one deep-frozen WorldSBK outing since the last column we still have red-hot Bolognese as the only meal available in the WorldSBK race-winning restaurant.

It may have a liberal sprinkling of Manchego cheese on top, in the form of the super-fast and utterly faultless Alvaro Bautista, but so far the winning recipe in WorldSBK has been mostly about a game-changing machine and the people who make it sing at castrato engine frequencies all the way to 2019 perfection.

Proof that a well-set-up Ducati Panigale V4R is peerless right now came in two ways in Assen; an event so cold that even well-padded people known for their polo-shirts-with-everything-attire had to fiddle with zips on puffa jackets on their way out of the media centre.

Firstly, when the Aruba.it Ducati team decided to try to give Bautista more of a potential advantage for the future, their attempts to take his bike setting into a potentially more golden point on the compass met with disaster. In any direction of change, it seemed. Disaster was their rider’s word, not mine.

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Michael van der Mark Interview: "If You Want To Start A WorldSBK Season, The Yamaha Is The Best Base"

Michael van der Mark finished third in the WorldSBK championship in 2018, after getting off to a relatively rocky start. His 2019 season started on a more solid foundation, but like the rest of the WorldSBK grid, the Dutchman has been blown away by the arrival of Alvaro Bautista on the Aruba.it Ducati.

Bautista's performance has overshadowed some very interesting developments with the rest of the WorldSBK grid. The Yamaha has made a big step forward – so much so that Van der Mark finds himself regularly finishing behind his Pata Yamaha teammate Alex Lowes – making it possible for the now four Yamaha riders to try to take on the might of Jonathan Rea on the Kawasaki.

At the press presentation of the Assen round of WorldSBK on the Tuesday before Aragon, I got a chance to interview Michael van der Mark about how he sees 2019 WorldSBK season. Van der Mark talks about the improvement the Yamahas have made, what to make of Alvaro Bautista, and whether Assen might give him a better chance to fight with the Ducati at a track where horsepower is less of a factor.

Q: How do you see your season so far? It seems like a mixture of good and bad?

Michael van der Mark: We must be really happy with the results so far. Of course, I want to be on the podium much more, but to score so many points for the first two races is not bad. I think all four Yamaha's are doing a really good job. My teammate was a bit stronger in Thailand, but he's not far away. So I think we must be really happy. Also I think it shows that all four of us use everything which is in the bike.

Q: Would it be fair to say that the Yamaha is the best bike on the grid, or the most well-rounded bike on the grid?

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Crunching The Numbers: Will The Ducati Panigale V4R Have Its Revs Reduced In WorldSBK?

Alvaro Bautista came to the WorldSBK championship and has been unstoppable. Since figuring out how to get the right feeling from the front end of the brand new Ducati Panigale V4R, he has won all six races held so far – four full-length races, and the two new Superpole sprint races held on Sunday. His winning margins in the four full races were 14.983, 12.195, 8.217, and 10.053 seconds. He won both sprint Superpole races by over a second as well.

Naturally, that kind of domination attracts attention. The WorldSBK series is meant to be a close battle between bikes based on road-going motorcycles, and as modification of the standard bikes is limited, there are mechanisms in the rule book for keeping the disparity between the different bikes racing to a minimum, giving any manufacturer which sells a 1000cc sports bike a chance to be competitive.

To ensure this, the rules have a section on balancing performance between the different bikes competing. The method of balancing performance has varied over the years, but the current rules use only the maximum revs to try to keep the bikes close. The maximum rev limit is set when each new model is homologated, following a formula described in the rules, and explained by WorldSBK Technical Director Scott Smart in a video on the WorldSBK website. The short version is that the bikes are limited at 1100 RPM above the point at which they make their peak horsepower.

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