Yamaha defy the book­ies

One rider down and trail­ing the scorch­ing pace of Rea in prac­tice, Yamaha looked set for de­feat – yet took their most bril­liant win yet

Performance Bikes (UK) - - SUZUKA 8 HOURS -

At the same time the ty­phoon swept across Suzuka, a crash sent Yamaha into a tail­spin with a shoul­der in­jury forc­ing Kat­suyuki Naka­suga on the side­lines, and Alex Lowes/Michael van der Mark left to en­dure four hours of balls-out riding in the sti­fling hu­mid­ity. The Ja­panese rider is the ful­crum of the 8 Hour pro­gramme: while the other two mostly con­cen­trate on WSB: the All Ja­pan Su­per­bike rider de­vel­ops the bike, and every­thing about it is set up ac­cord­ing to his feed­back and de­sire. His team-mates are im­por­tant, but are also left to adapt to the lead rider’s pref­er­ences.

De­spite hav­ing two of the best rid­ers in WSB at their dis­posal, Yamaha felt that it was an up­hill task to win the race with­out Naka­suga, and had al­most con­ceded de­feat be­fore the start. But af­ter ral­ly­ing the troops on race day, Lowes and van der Mark made it clear that they came to win, and a new strat­egy was ac­tioned. The team made a host of changes to the bike to make van der Mark more com­fort­able for four hours, rather than the total two hours of riding he was orig­i­nally sched­uled for. And the Dutch­man re­paid them with a fault­less per­for­mance.

Start­ing the race in treach­er­ous con­di­tions, he bided his time un­til the track dried and then he had a flat-out, balls-to-the-wall scrap with Rea for the open­ing 90 min­utes. It was an in­cred­i­ble spec­ta­cle as the duo traded blows and an­swered any at­tack by dig­ging deeper within them­selves.

“It was in­cred­i­ble,” summed up van der Mark. “It was like a Su­per­bike race, not an En­durance race! We were giv­ing it every­thing the whole time and it was so easy to make a mis­take. When I looked into the dis­tance I

‘De­spite hav­ing two of the best rid­ers in WSB, Yamaha felt it was an up­hill task to win the race’

could see clouds com­ing and the threat of rain was the worst part. In one stint I pushed too hard and had prob­lems with the rear tyre grip at the end of the stint, but that was also when Johnny Rea ran out of fuel so it showed how hard we both pushed.

“In the mid­dle of the race when it rained it was very tough. I was riding with a dark vi­sor but I re­mem­ber my dad told me when I was younger to al­ways use a dark vi­sor in the rain. He said, ‘If you can’t see the wa­ter you can still be fast.’ It worked to­day!”

While van der Mark en­dured the worst of the con­di­tions, it was Lowes who took the flag for a third con­sec­u­tive year. The ex­pe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence that comes from suc­cess was key for Yamaha. The team re­fused to be bul­lied into de­vi­at­ing from a prac­tice strat­egy of fo­cus­ing on race pace, de­spite Kawasaki’s head­line-grab­bing speed and Naka­suga’s crash.

“For three years we’ve made no mis­takes and that’s im­pres­sive,” said Lowes. “Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at Suzuka helps be­cause it gives you some con­fi­dence to develop a plan for prac­tice and to stick to it.”

That con­fi­dence paid off and will only con­tinue to grow now that the Euro­peans have proved to Yamaha they can carry the fight into the fu­ture.

Lowes gets stuck into some dry laps at Suzuka

All eyes on Lowes as he takes the flag in the dead of night

Yamaha prove their two-man team can still bring home a win

Get at the sharp end and spray be­comes less of an is­sue

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.