Van der Mark podi­ums again on board re­ju­ve­nated Ten Kate Honda ■ Cir­cuit: Buri­ram, Thai­land Laps: Fastest Lap: Rea 1Õ33.936 Cir­cuit lap record: Rea 1Õ33.817 (2015) RACE ONE 20

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - AT BURI­RAM, THAI­LAND WSB REPORTER

The storm­ing start to the sea­son en­joyed by Honda World Su­per­bike rider Michael van der Mark con­tin­ued apace in Thai­land. Af­ter se­cur­ing a stun­ning Su­per­pole win, the 23-year-old Dutch­man took a race one podium be­fore claim­ing fourth in race two, just over five sec­onds from the big three of Sykes, Rea and Davies.

Safe to say, then, that he is the most im­proved man this year al­ready as team boss Ron­ald ten Kate ex­plained: “We al­ways knew that he would make a step in the se­cond year in a new class, but he has he re­ally jumped for­ward.”

As pleas­ing as Van der Mark’s third podium in three races goes was, on a per­sonal level he was most stoked by the vic­tory in Su­per­pole qual­i­fy­ing.

“I was sur­prised with my Su­per­pole lap time,” said Van der Mark. “The Kawasakis are al­ways re­ally fast but to­day we showed that when I have a good feel­ing with the Honda I can do a re­ally fast lap on my own. Su­per­pole was amaz­ing!”


Aside from Van der Mark’s clear tal­ent, hats are widely be­ing tipped to the Ten Kate-run Honda Su­per­bike team. Af­ter years in the dol­drums, com­pet­ing on the age­ing Fire­blade, the vast ma­jor­ity of the pad­dock be­lieved they were flog­ging a dead horse. But clearly no-one told the team, who have made gi­ant leaps with the Fire­blade to turn it into a for­mi­da­ble WSB pack­age once again. And the rea­son why the ‘old’ Honda has had a new lease of life is down to three main ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to the team boss.

Ten Kate told MCN: “The power out­put is way more lin­ear than last year and at the top end it has a lot more. Last year I don’t think we were ag­gres­sive enough. We started work with the Cos­worth guys re­ally early. In Au­gust when the first parts were be­ing made and the first test­ing was be­ing done, we were able do very early dyno test­ing to make sure the en­durance was there and to build nice torque maps.

“With the elec­tron­ics now it is not only hav­ing the power, but that we can use that power. The torque map we have built now is quite dif­fer­ent. Our boys were at Cos­worth for a week, to­gether with the clever­est guys they could find, and I be­lieve they have done an amaz­ing job. The chas­sis rules have changed too. The head­stock can be 9mm for­ward and that is mak­ing a huge dif­fer­ence with us. We can now make our al­ready com­pet­i­tive chas­sis very com­pet­i­tive. So it is a bit of a com­bi­na­tion of the big three: en­gine, elec­tron­ics and chas­sis.”

Van der Mark’s team-mate Nicky Hay­den is the global star of WSB this year, but his star was eclipsed in Satur­day’s race one when his bike splut­tered and then quit with an elec­tri­cal is­sue. It wasn’t all bad as he went on to pull off fifth place in Sun­day’s race two.

Hay­den said: “Sun­day was not a disas­ter like Satur­day and we were able to go the whole race. I just had a lit­tle prob­lem with the clutch in the start. I was not ag­gres­sive enough to make early passes but as the race went on I was feel­ing bet­ter and bet­ter and at the end I was still do­ing high 1’34s. Those are very re­spectable times.”

‘When I have a good feel­ing with the Honda I can do

a re­ally fast lap’


in Ar­gentina last year. So you have to think with your brain. This sport is dan­ger­ous enough with­out ex­ag­ger­at­ing that dan­ger. I try to keep my mouth shut with the tac­tics used be­cause Tom did a great job.”

Sykes un­sur­pris­ingly saw things dif­fer­ently to his team-mate. As he watched a TV re-run of the high­lights in front of the me­dia, he ex­plained how he could fight so hard so late in the race.

“I just de­fended two op­por­tu­ni­ties from Jonathan and it was enough. It looks like a good close race and it was a plea­sure to be part of it.”

Both Kawasaki rid­ers will be more than ready to put one over on the other come the next round – Aragon – where Sykes should re­main strong. The 2016 bike is closer to Sykes’ pre­ferred set-up of old, and the York­shire­man feels it is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence al­ready.

“I was able to win the se­cond race and this is how I re­mem­ber rid­ing in my cham­pi­onship-win­ning year, so hope­fully that re­sult is a bridge and we can go back to Europe now and try and step it up.”

Sykes’ de­ter­mi­na­tion brought out a poignant mo­ment, which maybe ex­plains why he man­aged to con­vert his top three pace into this par­tic­u­lar win.

“I want to ded­i­cate this one to my mother-in-law,” said Sykes. “She passed away a cou­ple of weeks ago. The fam­ily has re­ally been suf­fer­ing but my father-in-law John (Hack­ett) made me prom­ise to try to take a win for Chris. So I have to ded­i­cate that one to Chris and I am sure she will en­joy it.”

Honda’s young star is mak­ing his mark on the Fire­blade For­mer Mo­togp man Hay­den was im­pressed with the track… most of it any­way

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