Catalunya WorldSBK test: Van der Mark works on weight distribution

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Picture: GeeBee Images

WorldSBK championship contender Michael van der Mark made a steady start to his Catalunya testing programme, with some forward and some backward steps.

The works Yamaha rider, who is heading for BMW in 2021 with an as-yet-unnamed team-mate, finished a little way behind Toprak Razgatlioglu at a track he hasn’t seen for a decade.

“I think it has been ten years since I have been here, so I was getting used to the bike and track,” said VDM, who lost some track time at the end of day one.

“The first morning session I felt very good, improving a lot, and my fastest lap I ran off track. I was quite happy with the feeling in the morning but in the afternoon when the temperature went up I was struggling with the front feeling of the bike.

We are playing a lot with the weight distribution and in the hotter conditions we were struggling. We found a good direction but at the end of the day we lost it a little bit. In the last hour we had some technical problems so I could not improve and attack the time. But it is fantastic to be back on the bike for sure.”

Asked about the Spanish-heavy race calendar, and racing there in the height of the punishing summer months, VDM was just happy to be racing, it seems.

“I think it does not matter when we race, if we can race we are happy,” he stated. “The hot conditions will be a challenge. As riders we are fit, but to get a good set-up in hot conditions is always more difficult than the colder ones.

“Anyway, I think Dorna did a fantastic job to at least get a calendar, and there is a couple of races in Spain, but it does not matter. If we can race everybody is happy the teams are happy the sponsors are happy. That is what we really want.”

Off to BMW for 2021, in a move that took many – including Yamaha it seems - by surprise, VDM is barred from speaking about it until his contract expires in December.

Whatever the future, winning 2020 championship races and even the title itself is still the big aim, as it is for all the riders of factory bikes that have a proven winning record. “We need to focus on the job now and the goal did not change,” said Michael.

On the second and final day at Catalunya he said of his preparations for the season restart, “If we did not feel ready we are too late. I think in Australia we looked like we were ready and I don’t think a lot has changed.

“During this test if you look at the lap times it is really difficult to compare everyone - if you look at the track temperature and grip levels during the day. We focused on our own things and we really found some positive things on the bike. We had many new parts to test to find grip and everything. I think we are ready and I just want to race, to be honest. I think everyone is quite close.

“Maybe Johnny and Scott can make a really big step in the first lap but after that it looks like everybody is quite close together. At Jerez, I hope and think it will be quite close. I am ready for some battles. Jerez, at this time of year it is really warm so we will have to look after the tyres.

I do not think it will be as extreme as Phillip Island but I think this can be a factor that we will have some really nice battles in the front.”