Just when you thought the 2019 WorldSBK championship would be a Bautista benefit - with Kawasaki and Rea an occasional support act - up pop Yamaha and Michael van der Mark to win the final race of the weekend in Spain.
His two second places from the first two Jerez races showed just how strong he was this weekend. Admittedly VDM had to see Bautista’s home triple crown get buried in the dust by his own small but costly error, but VDM had the measure of Rea and his bike set-up. He combined protection from Rea’s threat with a pace that Rea admitted could not be matched.
VDM has felt improvements to his Yamaha since the recent well-attended test at Misano, and started well in Spain.
“From the first laps I felt so much better with the bike on this track and we tested a new tank and stuff in Misano,” he said. “We did not change a lot on the bike during this weekend and that means the whole package is really good now. When you start with a good rhythm on Friday it is so much easier to keep it the whole weekend.”
Bautista was untouchable in the first and second races, but VDM thought that starting from second place in the final race (as a result of his second place in the Tissot Superpole race) he could at least scrap with Bautista for a while.
My plan was to fight with him but we did not know, and he was really strong. His pace has been incredible and it is like Johnny said, he is gaining so much time in other places than we are gaining. I really wanted to battle with him today and I was ready for it.”
Qualifying in seventh place in Superpole left VDM stranded on row three, for the first race, which makes it harder to come through to his strong podium finishes and eventual race win. He was promoted to sixth after Rea’s penalty moved most people up one, but it is still people to pass in the first laps.
“I am bored of this, I want to start in front the next time. I cannot complain finishing second, second and first but it would make my life easier. This morning in the Superpole race I started from sixth and I made some stupid overtakes. So I lost a lot of time by myself, but I had to overtake because I started from sixth.
But Superpole yesterday was really my own fault… I made the mistakes, but I felt that the bike was really, really good in Superpole. I had struggled with this many times before in Superpole but I think not only the race rhythm of the bike has improved, also for Superpole.”
VDM now has three career wins, all on Yamahas. These form part of a total of 26 career podiums, split between Honda (nine) and Yamaha (17).