THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
Van der Mark closes in on WSB win with two podiums
Honda’s Fireblade is one of the oldest bikes in WSB but that didn’t stop Michael van der Mark wrestling his way to a pair of podiums at Phillip Island.
The 23-year-old showed great promise last year and bagged three topthrees in his rookie year, but took a huge step up in Australia and was the only rider who could live with Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea. He finished just 0.487s and then 0.831s off the winner each time, taking third in the opening encounter and a career-best second on Sunday.
He was buzzing as the weekend’s action came to a close. “To finish second on Sunday was amazing,” grinned the tall Dutchman from Rotterdam. “We had a really good weekend and the team did a fantastic job to improve the bike. I cannot imagine a better way to start the season.”
He did not know the significance of his race two performance until told by MCN. “Second in the championship? I did not even notice that but it is pretty good!”
All his experience in European Superstock racing and World Supersport, where he was champion in each, helped him deal with racelong strategies to finish his day only 14 points from title leader Jonathan Rea.
“I knew in the last couple of laps it would be difficult for me but at that point Johnny and Chaz passed me and I could still stay on the pace ok,” said van der Mark of race two. “I was not scared of them getting away. Chaz made a couple of passes on Johnny and unfortunately the last one did not work for him. I tried to stay as close as possible to Jonathan on the last lap but he did not make a mistake and I had already used too much of the tyre.”
Missing some testing while he had a trapped tendon issue in his right forearm resolved, and then facing the former Motogp legend that is Nicky Hayden across the garage has lifted van der Mark, rather than sending him scurrying into his shell.
He added: “Nicky being in the team is a big motivation because he is fast and he showed at the test that the gap was not big between us. I am happy with him as a team-mate and I am sure it will be close and he will be in front of me at some point, but I will try to avoid it as long as possible!”
With Assen only the fourth round of the season, his first win could come pretty soon. Van der Mark would rather not wait, though. “I wanted to win today and I was close. I have been third before, second now and only the first win is missing. I have a good feeling for what the bike can do and it would be perfect if the win happens at Assen.”
And don’t forget he’s on the supposedly uncompetitive Honda. With WSB and Pirelli rookie Hayden fourth in race two in Australia, reports of the Blade’s demise seem a little premature.
‘Second in the championship? I did not notice but it is pretty good!’ MICHAEL VAN DER MARK