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The Pata Yamaha Official #worldsbk Team had a mixed day under the scorching sun at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday during Race 1 for round eight of the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. Michael van der Mark fought his way from 13th on the grid to secure an eighth-place finish despite track temperatures of almost 60°C and suffering from a lack of grip. His teammate Alex Lowes qualified in eighth but unfortunately crashed out of the race on lap 7 at Turn 5, although he still retains fifth place in the championship standings.
Van der Mark had to contest SP1 for only the second time this season on Saturday morning, but despite his best efforts, he finished the session in third, missing out on making it through to SP2 for the first time since he joined the Pata Yamaha Official #worldsbk Team, by just two-hundredths of a second. Starting from 13th on the grid, he immediately made up a number of places when the lights went out at Laguna Seca. Unfortunately, at Turn 2 Leon Camier ran wide and van der Mark had nowhere to go and was forced wide, dropping back to 12th. The 24-year-old Dutch rider then got his head down, and despite not feeling fully confident with his R1 on corner entry and suffering from a lack of grip, he found a steady rhythm and started to make his way through the pack.
After 11 laps, he had made his way up to tenth place and started to close the gap the three riders ahead of him. By lap 14 he became involved in an excellent four-way battle for seventh and as the laps ticked down he first passed Lorenzo Savadori for ninth, then made an excellent move on Leandro Mercado for 8th with 5 laps remaining. He set his sights on trying to close down the gap to Jordi Torres in seventh but he ran out of laps and crossed the line in eighth to secure eight vital championship points. The new grid rules for 2017 mean that he will start Sunday's Race 2 from the middle of the second row in fifth place, with Van der Mark keen to build on his Race 1 performance. This result sees him remain sixth in the championship standings, now with 123 points, but means he has closed the gap to his teammate Lowes in fifth to just 18 points.
His teammate Lowes experienced a day of ups and downs at Laguna Seca on Saturday after ending Friday in eighth overall and making it directly through to SP2. In the 15-minute qualifying session, the 26-year-old British rider improved on his best time from free practice by almost a second to qualify on the middle of the third row in eighth for the race. When the lights went out Lowes, like many riders, struggled for grip in the extreme heat and found himself in 11th after the first few corners, just ahead of his teammate van der Mark. Determined to make up the lost ground he pushed hard on his R1 and was closing down the group in front when he lost the front at Turn 5 on lap 7 without any prior warning and crashed out of the race. Lowes was luckily unhurt after the fast crash and left bemused as to the cause, but is determined to bounce back in Sunday's Race 2. Due to the grid rules for 2017, Lowes will start Sunday's 25-lap Race 2 from the middle of the fourth row in 11th.
The Pata Yamaha Official #worldsbk Team are back in action on Sunday at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Warm up at 10:30am and Race 2 scheduled to start at 14:00pm local time.
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