Van der Mark welcomes prospect of Melandri on a satellite R1

Picture: GeeBee Images

Pata Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark has welcomed the idea of former world champion Marco Melandri joining the WorldSBK R1 gang in a satellite team.

The flying Dutchman, who has scored four podiums in the last five races, believes Melandri’s experience would be helpful in keeping the development flowing.

“We do not know how he thinks about the bike,” said Magic Mikey. “For us it is just important that someone is improving this bike but not completely changing the bike. That is the main thing. He has a lot of experience so he will be always really helpful and I hope he feels the same about us - has the same direction as us.

“With Alex, the feeling we have with the bike is the same – where we need to improve - but our set-ups are completely different. The places we need to improve we have the same feedback. We have completely different riding styles so it is good to have the same feedback about the bike. That is what we need to improve the bike.”

However, there are still some substantial budget concerns for the GRT Yamaha squad that wants to run a brace of bikes in the 2019 championship. And Yamaha bosses are keen to bring in an up-and-coming youngster on a fast track to the podium.

Even though van der Mark has been a consistent rostrum dweller of late, a bad race one at Magny-Cours on the weekend spoiled his run but changes made him again the only rider in with the championship’s leading duo of Rea and Davies.

“Another podium, and it was such an improvement on Saturday because it was really, really bad then,” said VDM after taking third place on Sunday. “From the start I did not feel good with the bike, I struggled a lot, and it was really weird. So I am really happy with the progress we made today even though in warm-up it still did not feel so good.

“For the race we changed something again - and of course it is a kind of a gamble - but it paid off. Starting off the second row is a lot easier and I had a really good start and I was quite aggressive. Today everything came together. I was not as fast as Johnny or Chaz, but at least I learned a lot from them, where to improve. Yesterday I just could not follow anyone. Length wise and height of the bike were completely different so it was like a new bike today. We saw some positives this morning and kept the rear of the bike the same but changed the front of the bike again.”

The next step for VDM is regularly winning, and now he has at least taken his first two wins in WorldSBK, he knows it is within reach soon.

He said, “I think the Donington double was too long ago! I want to win really bad and I think in Donington everything just clicked. We did not change a lot on the bike that weekend. If we have that, we can be fighting for the win. The progress we are making is that we are fighting for the podium now, every weekend. So we are making progress. But to fight for the win we need to make another step.”

VDM was clear that there is still a small advantage for the top Kawasaki and Ducati runners. Exactly where is hard to describe but at Magny Cours, it was in changing direction under power.

“It is everywhere a little bit,” said VDM, “but especially at this track, the changes of direction - here you have many changes of direction - for me it was really hard. Especially in acceleration. I was fighting with the bike to change direction and the rear just wanted to spin. Their bikes look smooth and they go forward. In places like Portimao it is not a big problem We have improved in electronics but we miss a little bit of drive still.”

This is VDM’s second year on the R1 so he feels he and Yamaha are still learning. He thinks Kawasaki and Ducati have done the bulk of theirs.

“They have been working for so many years with the same bikes, or similar bikes, but we are still improving the bike. If you look at the Kawasaki they did not change the bike a lot, but every year they made a small change on the it; so not a really new bike. This is the third year we are racing in Superbike so we are still making progress. It is slowly now because you cannot make big steps like in the beginning.”

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