“I’ve been unlucky in the last two years” – van der Mark’s return to contention in P4

Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) took his best finish in two and a half years this weekend at the Pirelli Catalunya Round. The #60 had a solid Superpole which gave him the chance to fight inside the top six all weekend, culminating in a fine P4 in Race 2 on Sunday. A clear sign of BMW’s huge progress, his results will certainly warm his home fans up for the next round at Assen in the Netherlands.

STORY OF THE WEEKEND: van der Mark’s emphatic return to the front

The weekend started well for van der Mark, working together with teammate Toprak Razgatlioglu in Superpole to try and get himself in contention for a front row. Images of Toprak helping the #60 in the box were shown and when van der Mark followed his teammate, he went up into P4 for a best Superpole Result since Donington Park in 2022. In Race 1, he opted for the softer front tyre which gave initial pace but then dropped off in the second half of the race, leaving him ninth.

However, on Sunday, the 2014 World Supersport Champion held his own and battled to sixth place, right in contention throughout. This meant he kept his second row starting status for Race 2, even if he did drop to P6. For Race 2 itself, it was another strong start and he fought his way into P4. Up ahead of him was teammate Toprak, who was chasing Ducati pairing Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and teammate Nicolo Bulega. Whilst Bautista and Bulega led and were ahead of Toprak at the line, fourth for van der Mark is the first top four finish for the 31-year-old since Race 2 at Mandalika in 2021. That emphasises that not only is he back to full fitness but that the BMW M 1000 RR has developed into a strong package for both Toprak and him.

HIS OWN WORDS: “I’ve built a lot of confidence”

Talking after the race, van der Mark was elated with a return to form: “With Assen next, there was no better time to demonstrate that he’s a contender: “It was really nice and I had a good race. I got a good start, felt good but knew it was going to be a long race. At the beginning, I didn’t want to push too hard and tried to stay out of trouble. Some guys pushed really hard at the beginning and it is difficult to stay calm but I managed to get going, pass them again and I was in P5 for a long time. I tried to manage the tyres as in Race 1, I lost a lot of time. When Iannone crashed, I was up into P4 and I had a good gap to the others and get home there.

“Australia was already quite good but this whole weekend was quite good and I’ve built a lot of confidence and it’s nice to see the bike is working so good and also, working together with Toprak too. They said before the round that this is one of the worst tracks for us and look what we did: Toprak two wins and one other podium and for me, P9 in Race 1 but then P6 on Sunday morning but then P4, I’ve got a lot of confidence back. “

“WE KNOW HE’S A SPECIAL RIDER” – praise for his teammate, ‘Abi’

Speaking about Toprak bringing a special quality to the team, he agreed: “It’s very special and we know he’s a special rider but I think he showed straight away that the bike isn’t as bad as everyone thought the bike was. I’ve been unlucky in the last two years by not being fit but we always tried to work and get the right direction with this project and developing the bike. Even when the results weren’t as good as we wanted, this direction we went in seems to be the right one. The atmosphere in the team is really good and if we keep going like this, it can only get better.”

Looking ahead to his home round at Assen, the Dutchman has a clear target in sight as he looks to give the fans what they want: “It’d be really nice to get on the podium, it’s been a while! Honestly, we had a really strong weekend here and if we can do the same at Assen, with a little bit extra pressure, I hope to be on the podium there.”

LOOKING AHEAD: Assen calls as expectations rise

It’s been a strong weekend for van der Mark, with eighth in the Championship secured whilst he’s achieved five top ten finishes in the six races, form he’s not enjoyed since the last seven races of 2021 which were kickstarted with a win at Portimao in the Superpole Race. His best result at Assen with BMW is a fourth from 2021, so he’ll look to mount the podium for the first time at home with the German manufacturer.

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Source: WorldSBK.com

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