Michael van der Mark described the feeling of leading a World Superbike race as “too good to be true” after a sensational debut at Phillip Island. The Dutch rookie was a strong fifth in race one before storming to the front of the pack in race two, leading comfortably for a number of laps.
Van der Mark even got involved in a tussle with 2013 champion Tom Sykes in the opening race, forcing the Kawasaki rider off track. The debutant eventually faded as his tyre began to wear but given the problematic start to the weekend, Michael was happy with the outcome.
“Friday morning started as a bit of a nightmare really because we changed the bike a lot compared to the test earlier in the week. It was just not working but from the second free practice we started getting faster and faster and when the temperatures went really high yesterday we were still fast and managed the tyres well. I had a good feeling for the races but we were a bit unlucky that the weather was not as hot as yesterday. I had quite a good start to the first race and was aggressive in the first couple of laps, but I couldn’t stay with the front guys. I had a big drop in the tyre as well, so I had to focus on the guy behind me and save some tyre to bring it back in fifth.”
The second race saw a phenomenal rise for van der Mark who overtook Chaz Davies and Leon Haslam in successive corners to take the lead on lap eight. Michael was later relegated back to fourth before a promising ride was ended by a crash at MG hairpin but the youngster refused to let that put a dampener on a memorable debut weekend.
“We made a couple of small electronics changes for the second race but I was hoping for a bit more hot weather. The start wasn’t really great but I was really aggressive and could stay with the front guys this time. I even led the race for a few laps which felt really good before I had another big, big drop in the tyre. I tried to follow the guys but just pushed a bit too hard and lost it. But my guys did an amazing job this weekend and to be fifth in my first Superbike race was incredible. To be leading in my second Superbike race was just too good to be true!”
After struggling through pre-season, PATA Honda technical co-ordinator Pieter Breddels feels van der Mark’s performance not only underlines his potential, but confirms that the CBR1000RR will still be a force in 2015.
“Race one for Michael was a lonely ride but to get fifth in your first Superbike race was a very good effort. We made some changes for race two to work the tyre a little better and it worked out well. He got a good start and even led the race for a few laps before dropping back to fourth. He had a small crash three laps from the end so no points there, but for sure he showed the world that on the Honda he has all the speed and talent needed to run at the front.”