Michael van der Mark has officially been confirmed as Alex Lowes' new team-mate at Pata Yamaha for the 2017 World Superbike championship, replacing Sylvain Guintoli who leaves after just one year with the factory team.
After losing his race seat at the Ten Kate Honda squad to Stefan Bradl, who will switch from MotoGP to World Superbikes next year
, van der Mark was hotly tipped for a move to the factory Yamaha team who returned to the championship in 2016.
The deal has been confirmed by Yamaha and it marks the end of van der Mark's relationship with Ten Kate Honda which began in 2013. After claiming the 2014 World Supersport championship, van der Mark stepped up to World Superbikes last year and impressed during his rookie campaign with three rostrum results.
The Dutch 23-year-old continued his run of strong performances at the start of 2016 with three podiums in the opening three races plus a first pole position of his WSBK career at Thailand.
His rapid rise through the ranks have convinced the Crescent Racing-run Yamaha squad to sign up van der Mark as they see him as a rider who fits its 'philosophy'.
"I'm very much looking forward to this new challenge with Yamaha,” van der Mark said. “I could see the potential of the R1 during its first World Superbike season this year and I'm convinced that with further development and the full support of Yamaha and the team I will have the right package to fight for the World Superbike title next year.
"It is never an easy decision to leave a team and a manufacturer after so many years and successes, I will always remain grateful for the support received and I will give my maximum for the remainder of this season to get as many podiums as possible.”
Yamaha's European Chief Operating Officer Eric de Seynes is confident the factory squad can learn from the challenges of its comeback year in World Superbikes as it aims to launch a title-challenging campaign in 2017 with the retained Lowes and new rider van der Mark.
"Yamaha's new commitment to the Superbike World Championship has started in 2016, and now we look forward to using the lessons learned in this 'comeback season' and the increasingly strong relationship with our racing partner Crescent, in order to challenge for the top positions in 2017,” de Seynes said. “We are delighted and excited to have Michael joining Yamaha in 2017.
“At only 23 years of age, he is already a World Champion and is fighting at the front of World Superbikes - this is very impressive! Importantly, the rider line up demonstrates our philosophy of choosing two young riders, both who not only have the talent to fight for victory in World Superbikes but also the capacity to potentially grow their careers with Yamaha in the future.
“In this way, Yamaha would like to use the World Superbike series as a platform to demonstrate its racing spirit with the production based YZF-R1 and also to develop further the family of Yamaha riders - Michael is a perfect fit inside this philosophy and we are very excited to welcome him to the team.”
Yamaha has also paid tribute to former world champion Guintoli who will leave the team at the end of the current season. The French rider has missed the past four months of action after suffering a broken ankle at Imola but will be making a return to competitive action next month at the Lausitzring for Pata Yamaha.
"I would like to personally thank Sylvain for his partnership with Yamaha in 2016,” de Seynes said. “He has suffered some very bad luck and some frustration since the beginning of the year and we hope that the end of this season will bring us some success and smiles together. I really wish Sylvain all the best wishes in his racing career and life in the future."
van der Mark will complete the 2016 World Superbike season with Honda before switching to Pata Yamaha ahead of winter testing for next year.