Yamaha have announced that Michael van der Mark will be leaving their WorldSBK team at the end of the 2020 WorldSBK season. After what will be four seasons with the Pata Yamaha squad, the 27-year-old Dutchman has decided to leave for pastures new.
There is as yet no confirmation of where Van der Mark is heading, but reports on Speedweek suggest his destination is likely to be BMW. With Kawasaki already having signed Alex Lowes and Jonathan Rea, and little interest from either Ducati or Honda, BMW is the obvious choice.
That would also automatically lower the combined age of the BMW team. At 27, Van der Mark is 7 years younger than either Tom Sykes or Eugene Laverty, who are both 34. Which one of the two is likely to stay is as yet uncertain. Tom Sykes has proven himself to be competitive on the S1000RR, but Eugene Laverty's development feedback has been rated extremely highly wherever he has ridden. That could be a crucial factor for a pairing with Van der Mark, who is not known for his feedback, though his speed is never in question.
Why would Van der Mark leave Yamaha? There is a strong possibility his departure is linked to the arrival of Toprak Razgatlioglu in the Pata Yamaha squad. For years, Van der Mark was seen as the up-and-coming young talent in WorldSBK, until Razgatlioglu arrived on the scene. For the young Turkish rider to be signed into the Yamaha squad, and then feted for his victory in race 1 at Phillip Island, the first WorldSBK race of 2020, would have been tough for Van der Mark to bear. If he believed, or felt he deserved, the number one position in the team, this would have dented his confidence that this was so.
Who replaces Van der Mark at Pata Yamaha is also unclear. The obvious choice would be to take a rider from the GRT Yamaha team, or perhaps even Loris Baz from Ten Kate. But there are no signs of a choice having been made there yet.
The Yamaha press release announcing Van der Mark's departure appears below:
Yamaha and Van der Mark to Part Company at Conclusion of 2020 WorldSBK Season
Yamaha and Michael van der Mark will part ways at the end of the 2020 FIM Superbike World Championship season, with the 27-year-old Dutch rider opting to take on a new challenge in 2021. Van der Mark's departure brings to a close a four-year partnership that has so far brought three WorldSBK race wins and two victories at the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour race.
Van der Mark joined the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team in 2017 and twice finished on the podium during his debut season. The following year saw the Dutch rider secure his first WorldSBK race win, and Yamaha's first since returning to the championship in 2016, with victory in Race 1 at Donington Park. Van der Mark doubled up with a win in the following day's Race 2 and, with eight additional podium finishes over the course of the season, ended the year third in the championship standings.
The former FIM Supersport World Champion added to his win tally in 2019 with victory in Race 2 at Jerez but was sidelined by injury in the following round at Misano following a crash in free practice. Despite missing out at Misano and riding injured at the following two rounds, Van der Mark racked up eight podium finishes in 2019 to end the season fourth in the championship standings.
The Pata Yamaha rider was a contender for the win in all three races at the opening round of the 2020 season in Australia but was unfortunate to miss out on the chance to add to his podium tally. Since the Phillip Island round, racing has been suspended due the coronavirus pandemic, but Van der Mark will return to action next month, with the WorldSBK season set to resume with back-to-back races in Jerez and Portimão.
Both Yamaha and Van der Mark head into the rescheduled 2020 season determined to end their successful four-year collaboration on a high note, by battling for race wins and, ultimately, challenging for the World Championship title.