Britain’s Alex Lowes is the leading Pata Yamaha WorldSBK rider right now but after his best 2019 weekend so far, team-mate Michael van der Mark is on the up.
VDM has struggled so far this year and was under intense scrutiny at his home Assen race - coming up with a double podium while Lowes struggled with front-tyre life.
Lowes, however, is happy to have the pressure of an equally-fast team-mate across the garage.
“Obviously we have the Yamaha battle, which is new this year and I want to be at the front of that so that is a lot of motivation for me,” Lowes told bikesportnews.com.
“t looks like our bike this year is competitive in a lot of areas. In the team with Michael and me we have a fantastic atmosphere, to be honest.
“I am happy for him this weekend to be the only Dutch guy on the grid, under a lot of pressure, and to be riding the best he has done all year is really good.
“It is going to be a battle with him all year and that gives me a lot of motivation to be the best I can.”
With four Yamaha bikes on the grid now, there is already a big fight that Lowes wants to win. After bright starts from GRT Yamaha riders Melandri and Cortese, Aragon and Assen proved teak-tough. What was that all about, Lowes was asked?
“I don’t know, but Sandro had a big crash and he was not fit today so we did not see his true potential,” said Lowes. “He has to learn these tracks on a Superbike every weekend.
Last time he was second on the grid and I think he is going to do a good job. I expect these guys to be strong in every track and we are showing that the bike can be strong.
“So I expect 100 per cent that Marco and Sandro will be challenging at the front in Imola. Maybe this weekend, with cold weather, it was a little bit of a strange weekend for them.”
Part of Lowes’ more successful 2019 approach is using his rider coach, Niccolo Canepa. “Yes, he is helping me a lot with my riding and also I am getting a bit older now.
“I try to understand every year where I can improve, and my riding is improving. It is easy to be consistent when you are riding better. Also I am getting a bit older now and so naturally you learn.
For example, when Michael passed me even two or three years ago I could have tried to stay with him. My tyre was quite bad at the end of the race and maybe I could have made a mistake.
“Today could have just been solid, clever. I try to take this approach every week and hopefully rather than third or fourth I can start to challenge Alvaro and get a little bit closer. That is my target.”