Van der Mark closes in on WSB win with two podi­ums

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - AT PHILLIP IS­LAND WSB REPORTER

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

Van der Mark stakes his claim on the Cham­pagne

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