Michael van der Mark has revealed how a severely worn front tyre prevented him from challenging Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies in a pulsating four-way World Superbike fight in Phillip Island.
Such was the Dutchman's pace in free practice, van der Mark was earmarked as a sure-fire contender by Rea on Friday evening and from the start, the 23-year old was consistently in and around the podium places, noting the ease with which he could follow the leaders.
Yet as the race edged toward its climax, van der Mark found his front tyre had suffered serious wearing, even though he had ridden cautiously to prevent such an occurrence. Still, a third place was enough for the 2014 World Supersport champion to label the race “an amazing start to the season.”
“The guys in front had the same pace,” said van der Mark. “The race was quite difficult because we had to think about the tyres and stay smooth and not push too hard. I had a good pace and could follow them quite easily. Not everyone was pushing on the limit but I tried to overtake sometimes to see if they were going to make some mistakes but I asked a bit too much from the front tyre.
“At the end I came third and stayed quite close to Chaz and Johnny. In the last laps I was struggling with the front. The opened up a bit of a gap at the front but the gap behind stayed the same. In the last two corners I pushed because I saw them fighting but I'm really happy with third position and we knew we were fast. This is an amazing start of the season.
“I could pass quite easily but I didn't push to go much faster because I was worried about the tyres. Some corners for me I have to attack different on my bike. That's why I attacked a lot in the beginning because I have to do different lines with my bike. I was also enjoying the race. I think everybody did.
“To be honest Phillip Island is always difficult. I'm really sure the bike has improved. We needed grip for the beginning of the race and this has improved a lot. But here at Phillip Island everyone can be fast with a slower bike. We can only see how much we've improved after the third round.”
Van der Mark added that he will seek out a solution for the front tyre wear that also seriously affected team-mate Nicky Hayden's race, for Sunday's second encounter.
“We have to change small things. I need to find something that will save the front tyre more because this one was on the limit. The rest of the bike felt good but maybe some small adjustments. But I love riding the bike, it felt great to me.”