Donington WorldSBK - Hitting Your Mark

It was a case of double delight for Michael van der Mark at the UK Round of WorldSBK, and the Dutchman is only getting started

Last weekend's racing at Donington Park was exactly the shot in the arm that WorldSBK needed. A new rider on the top step of the podium, a new bike as the center of attention in Parc Ferme, and most importantly: Jonathan Rea being beaten in a straight up fight by Michael van der Mark.

Rea and Kawasaki have dominated the championship over the last three years and even for Yamaha's Van der Mark it was a surprise to finally break his duck in such style with a double.

“I was surprised by this weekend! Kawasaki and Johnny have been so dominant over the last few seasons and to beat them is very special. It shows that we're getting closer, and most importantly, it shows that we can beat them. It's easy to accept that Kawasaki will be in front and winning, and that's why it's important to prove to yourself that you can win races.”

In doing so the Dutchman became the first rider since Eugene Laverty to prove the adage that winning comes easier the second time. Laverty's Monza double in 2011, the last time a Yamaha rider managed to win both races, was just the 12th time in WorldSBK history that a rider opened their victory account with maximum points from a race weekend.

Nervous last laps

“Saturday was amazing and I've been waiting for four years to win a race! I was so nervous in the final laps of Race 1 and listening to everything and feeling everything on the bike. They say that after you win once it becomes easier and Sunday I was a lot more comfortable.. To do the double is incredible. The bike was so good in those last laps.

“To take the first win was special but to do the double is incredible. Last year we were strong here and I expected to fight for a podium here but to win wasn't an expectation. Kawasaki and Johnny are so strong at the moment. To beat them is something we didn't expect. Brno will suit the Yamaha again and hopefully we can build on this.”

Building on a stable platform has been the key for Van der Mark's crew chief, Lez Pearson. The Crescent Racing run operation have been doing all they can to ensure that the same base settings have been used throughout the campaign to allow his rider to build his confidence. That confidence was one of the biggest reasons Pearson had no doubt in his mind about the win throughout proceedings.

Stability above all

“Halfway through Race 1,” recalled Pearson. “Michael was still in third, I turned to Paul Denning on the pit wall and I said 'if he doesn't make a mistake he's going to win this one.' Experience always helps in racing but the biggest reason for this result is that the base of the bike has been stable this year. We've never been looking for a lot, only a few tenths per lap, so having stability with the electronics and other settings can make such a big difference. Having a stable bike allows you find the small steps, whereas if you're always making big changes it's nearly impossible to find the right setting. Winning is important for everyone. Whether you're in England or Italy, this win was needed to prove that the project is moving forward.”

One of the biggest question marks over the project will now to turn to whether or not Van der Mark stays at Yamaha. The 25 year old has been linked with a move to Kawasaki in recent weeks and that talk will surely only intensify in the coming weeks as the Prosecco sinks in following this victory.

“This win happened at the perfect time for both me and Yamaha,” said Van der Mark. “Of course there will be interest in me after winning, but it's difficult to win in WorldSBK and it's not easy to forget the hard work that goes into a project like this. We've been working towards winning and this is year three of the Yamaha project. It's difficult to decide now what to do, but I love this team and it's amazing to think back on how much we've achieved. The package is good now, we were really strong at Assen as well, and I hope that we can continue to make progress. It's important to have wins under your belt, but they count for nothing at the next round.”

Proving your worth and winning races is however a value that is worth a lot in WorldSBK.

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Loved both races at Donington. While the end of race 2 wasn't quite as intense at the very front, it was a hell of a time getting there. And watching both KRT boys have at it is always tense, as you know Sykes wants to get back to his winning ways. Happy for VDM, happy for Yamaha, and for the championship as a whole. Very exciting.