In the Pata Yamaha team there are two competing talents for their first race win in WorldSBK. One is home grown to the UK – Alex Lowes – and one had ripened in The Netherlands – Michael van der Mark.
For Mikey, running around Assen fast on motorbikes is something he has done since he was a relative kid, but every year he goes to Assen, WorldSBK weekend the expectation of that first really big Superbike win at home is huge.
He has been close to it in the past, and so it was this year at Assen. Just behind Rea on day one and then behind Sykes and Rea on day two, he was nearly, but not really, once again.
The pressure he is under at his home race is arguably greater than any other rider. After all, he is the only Dutchman even close to the top level, while Britain has a whole Sherwood Forest of talent going to Donington each season. Even the Americans have two up and comers in WorldSBK for Laguna this year.
But after finishing on a podium at his home race in the past (the first Dutchman to take a top three in WorldSBK) and then crash out of a leading position, he knows he has to show his all, but not too much and risk a fall. From row three (after his race second place finish in the reverse grid era) he had to use fire and ice as mixers as he anticipated the post-race Prosecco on Sunday.
“I had a good start in race two, but with this format you have to be aggressive but also careful,” Magic Mikey told bikesportnews.com. “I was aggressive and made some good passes in the first laps. But I did not feel like yesterday from the start.
“I was struggling a bit with the front; the rear did not feel as grippy as yesterday. It is really difficult to explain why because the set-up was completely the same. But it can be a few degrees difference in track temperature and we have seen in the past that the Yamaha is a bit sensitive for this. To beat Tom was impossible.
“Yesterday I saw at the end that he had good pace, and this morning he was impressively fast. When he has a track alone, Tom is gone. I knew from the start that P2 or P3 was my maximum in race two.”
Van der Mark said that he was glad he got two podiums at home, but he was also glad it was all over, in a way.
“It is not the pressure,” he explained, “but it is a different weekend. It is amazing to have so many fans here but it is also difficult to keep doing your normal routine in the team because everyone keeps asking you things.
“I love to do things with the fans but in a home race sometimes you feel it is difficult to work with the team, because every time you go somewhere somebody wants something. It is amazing, and I am really happy it is only one time in a year, but of course the most incredible thing is to see how many people came to watch me today.”
Three podiums in all for VDM this year, as the personal race between him and Lowes for first Yamaha race win goes on.