The Dutchman missed crucial track time in FP3, but made up for it with a resurgence in Race 1, putting him fifth by the chequered flag
Whilst the fight at the front of the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship was electric, there was a big a fight further back in Race 1 of the Motul French Round at the Circuit de Magny-Cours. Powering through to fifth place to triumph in the battle, Dutchman Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) came from ninth on the grid to return to the top five for the first time since Race 1 at Assen, when he was fourth.
Van der Mark made a bright start and was taking a wide, sweeping line through the opening couple of corners, making his way to the brink of the top five. As the race settled down and the field started to spread out, van der Mark found himself in the battle for sixth place, with teammate Tom Sykes, Leon Haslam (Team HRC), Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven), Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) and Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). Working his way calmly to the front of the group, van der Mark was able to break clear by just over two seconds ahead of Bautista, consolidating fifth.
Reviewing Race 1, van der Mark said: “I had to start from ninth, but I got a really good and gained a couple of positions in the first two corners. Unfortunately, everyone tried outbraking their opponent into Turn 5 and I ran wide and lost my places. So, I had to battle back through the field and at a certain point, I was in sixth, but I’d already lost the guys in front of me. It was a bit of a lonely race; I got some pressure from behind, but I had a nice gap at the end and my pace was consistent. I was struggling a bit with the bike; I couldn’t get it stopped and turned. I’m happy with P5, but I think we can improve my feeling a lot and how the bike behaves for tomorrow.”
It has been a far from straightforward weekend for van der Mark, as he missed the latter stages of FP2 on Friday afternoon before missing the entirety of Saturday morning’s FP3. However, he fought back and met team principal Shaun Muir’s target of a top nine on the grid, before getting stuck-in during the first race of the weekend to finish as top BMW for the first time since Race 2 at Most.
Commenting on the FP3 dramas, van der Mark stated: “I’m not a technician but I just went out and the bike stopped, and unfortunately we’ve had this problem before, and I knew my session was over. We have to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future again, it’s a shame because we need the track time. When you change something on the bike, you want to feel it and get some laps in, but in the end, the race is where we get points, and we did really well.
Racing action kicks off at 11:00 local time (GMT+2) for the all-important Tissot Superpole Race, and you can watch it with the WorldSBK VideoPass!