Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark pulled himself up to his full height at Magny-Cours on Sunday after falling from a leading position and remounting to finish only 13th on Saturday.
Third in the sprint race, he finished an improved second in race two, closing the gap to third placed Alex Lowes – also on the podium in race two – to just five points.
With double race winner and Race two binner Toprak Razgatlioglu just 14 points behind van der Mark, third place is still anybody’s with two whole rounds left. VDM could not quite win the second race, but finishing only 0.862 seconds down on Rea.
“I always try to win and you always know he is strong at the end, yesterday he was strong at the end too, but I tried everything today,” van der Mark. told bikesportnews.com.
I think Jonathan and I were really not that much quicker than anybody else but we had a really consistent pace. At the end he had just a little better drive out of the slow corners and that is why he was gaining some time. I tried everything to stay with Johnny and he was pushing as hard as he could. Alvaro was out - and I think he had a party in Ibiza, so he wanted to win.”
VDM knew what was a stake at Magny Cours in those final laps. “I saw before the race on the internet that he had to win and Bautista had to finish lower than 11th. And maybe while I was leading I saw on the big screen that they were preparing Jonathan’s pit-board – Bautista Out.
“I knew then that he wouldn’t do anything stupid - but he would try to win. The championship third place fight is quite exciting too. It is still there, still open, and Johnny showed again why he became World Champion; he did a fantastic job all year.
“When Alvaro was so strong in the beginning of the year he did not panic he just finished second every race and when Alvaro had problems Johnny was there. I think he is a well deserved champion and even today I was pushing him a lot and for sure he was really worried about me, but he was still stronger at the end.”
When asked if he thought that Rea could strike back after Bautista won the first 11 races of the year, VDM said, “Alvaro was winning, but he was always second. And you know Jonathan, I do not think his level was less than the years before. Like I said before, when Alvaro was winning Johnny was always close to second. When Alvaro started to have problems and make mistakes Johnny was there. I never really thought that Johnny could not win. I think he showed everyone here.”
Improvement in VDM’s immediate Yamaha R1 package, to help him arrive at Rea’s level, should start as follows according to VDM. “Mainly like today, at the end of the race, when the tyre drops, out of the slow corners we do not have any drive. And Johnny has it and many other bikes have a little bit more drive. For them it is easy to gain time there and we are just slow. So we need to find drive. This is not the last step but it is something we have struggled with quite long, so it is the first thing we need to improve.”
With Marco Melandri now retiring, and saying that the new 2020 Yamaha has the same character of the current bike, VDM said he was not concerned about that, “I do not know if you looked at Marco’s result. I have nothing to say, to be honest. Why should I be worried if I finished on the podium and he finished – I do not now where he finished. So, he finished sixth - but this morning he was 12th.
“I am not worried. I know it is not a complete new bike, for sure, it is the same kind of bike but it is just improved in areas. Also, we have already seen that it is not a big step, but at least there is progression on the new bike. I think he is too critic and he is retiring so he should not talk about it.”