The Dutchman roars to the top of the timesheets on “a weird day” and feels confident for the weekend
With mixed weather conditions keeping the riders on their toes, Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) coped best on a rapidly drying track to finish fastest on Friday at the Pirelli French Round. With six top-four finishes from eight starts at Magny-Cours, the 26-year-old has an impressive record at the 4.411km circuit and will have high hopes of continuing that form.
Friday’s running didn’t follow the usual pattern with FP1 beginning in wet conditions, only for the circuit to gradually dry up. Although slick tyres were never fitted, van der Mark was able to make significant progress late on to snatch top spot from Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), and felt encouraged by the way he closed the morning session.
Speaking at the end of day one, van der Mark described his FP1 run plan. “It’s been a bit of a weird day. This morning, the track was wet and we decided to wait a bit and we decided to wait a bit. In the end, the track was drying so we went out and I had an okay feeling with the bike. We made a small change but with the track in that condition, it’s very difficult to find a good feeling.”
Conditions deteriorated ahead of the second session with heavy rain falling in the run up to FP2. With little to gain, several riders chose to watch on from the garage and van der Mark admitted the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team had one eye on the weekend forecast when deciding their plan for the afternoon.
“For the second practice, it started to rain and we weren’t sure what to plan as it looks like the rest of the weekend will be dry”, he explained. “During the session, it started to rain a lot more so we decided just to wait and see. In the end, I didn’t ride in FP2 because we think tomorrow and Sunday will be dry, so a bit of a weird day, but the first feeling was good today!”
With precious few conclusions to be drawn, it remains to be seen how the competitive pecking order will shake out in the dry but van der Mark remains confident that he has a bike to challenge at the sharp end this weekend, pointing to his impressive track record here.
He added: “The podium is our goal. This is a track where I always have a good feeling, good results and also good memories so our goal is to fight for the podium. This morning, even though the conditions weren’t really great, I felt really good with the bike straight away so this is promising for the rest of the weekend.”
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