Following the announcement last week that Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes will be sticking with Yamaha next year, Neil Hodgson sat down with WorldSBK.com to explain why he thinks it’s such a smart move from the Japanese manufacturer.
Both riders have secured their debut victories this season, and the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team continue to improve, with the pair developing the YZF-R1 into a race winner. But the ultimate goal for both riders next year is to challenge for the championship, and you can find out below what Hodgson thinks of the news, and their chances:
Age is on their side
“They are the best young talent in the championship really,” begins Hodgson. “With the way they are progressing – even though they are not young, in terms of SBK they are on the younger side….”
However, he also notes that being young isn’t vital in WorldSBK. Reigning world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was 28 when he took his first title, and is still winning at 31. “Age is not as much of a barrier than in MotoGP™ - there is seems to be a lot more important but in WorldSBK it’s not a huge barrier.” They could have many years of winning ahead of them.
Noting the importance of inter-team battles, Hodgson adds: “They have got a very healthy rivalry. They don’t get on and they’re not mates by a long shot, but it’s a strong healthy rivalry which is great.”
“You don’t have to be best mates with your team-mate, you don’t have to hate your team-mate, but there’s a balance to be found somewhere and the balance is about there. There’s a mutual respect so I think that’s a real plus.” This rivalry can be used as a strong motivation for any rider, and will no doubt give an extra push into 2019.
The feedback they give
As the pair continue to develop the YZF-R1, feedback is vital and Hodgson explains: “Their feedback on the bike is very consistent with each other, which is why I think the team have continued to make progress.”
“It’s because they are both asking for the same things on a regular basis. It makes it easier for a team if they give similar feedback, and having similar complaints then helps Yamaha’s direction.”
Looking ahead to 2019….
But of course, there is still some work to be done to challenge for the title which both riders are planning to do. Hodgson explains one small change which needs to be made for this to be possible. “To be in a stable team for another year is great, but what they need is a motorcycle to fight for and be on the podium every weekend, and at the moment it’s still not quite there.”
“As you can see, on some weekends it’s there and some weekends it’s not – Imola for example has been their nemesis. Then they could bridge the gap in Laguna which is good, but even then, when you watch the Laguna race, they weren’t close enough to fight for the win.”