Q:
Hi Michael, how did you find the new Sepang track surface?

Michael van der Mark:
The track is very nice, but in some places the water is coming up so it is quite tricky. It's pretty weird and also the tyre life is quite short. It's difficult, but we'll find a solution.

Q:
Where is the water seeping up?

Michael van der Mark:
Turns 1, 3, 9, 11. It's not a big patch. Just small patches, but it's a bit tricky.

Q:
I was speaking to Jarno Zaffelli, who oversaw the resurfacing and track changes. He said Turn 15 is probably the most different...

Michael van der Mark:
Yeah, last year that corner was completely flat. If you dive in a bit fast you run wide and come back. Now you cannot run wide because if you come back the camber is lifting the front a little. It's not that I don't like it, but it's completely opposite compared to last year. I think the best change is Turn 2; last year you just dropped down and now the elevation is less which is much better. It's smoother.

Q:
You were seventh fastest today, how is the Honda working here?

Michael van der Mark:
It felt good from the start to be honest. The only thing where we've been struggling a bit is tyre life, but I think everybody is having a problem. If I want to make three fast laps the bike is working well, definitely a lot better feeling than we had at Imola.

It's no secret that the bike is better with fast and flowing corners. But already compared to last year the base set-up has improved so much and it's easier to ride. At Imola we struggled a lot because it is more stop-and-go. We were just fighting the bike. A lot of wheelie. But we came here and everything worked alright.

Q:
If you could change one thing about the Honda, what would it be?

Michael van der Mark:
Especially power. We find a lot during the winter, but still we have to push hard in the corners to stay with them. That is where I'd like to improve.

Q:
That sounds a bit like what Marc Marquez is saying in MotoGP - that he has to push hard in the corners and braking to make up for time lost during acceleration?

Michael van der Mark:
Yeah we are quite similar. It has improved over the winter, but it's still not enough to stay on the front guys. Every corner exit where we open full throttle we lose a bit.

Q:
How is it having Nicky Hayden as a team-mate?

Michael van der Mark:
It's going good. He was quite fast from the start and I have not so much experience on different bikes and he has so much experience on all kinds of bikes. It's really good to have a guy like him as a team-mate - fast, with so much experience and knows what to change on the bike?

His style is not really much different compared to mine. Last year with Sylvain it was quite a big difference. But with Nicky the only thing is he's using more rear brake than me. Overall we are quite similar. This is a good thing for all the team.

Q:
Nicky is of course a former MotoGP champion, you have been linked with a possible move to MotoGP next season. Is there a chance for you?

Michael van der Mark:
As a young rider you always want to go in MotoGP. But if I go there, I want a good option. I'm young, I need to decide and must be smart about it. It's not only for one year but also afterwards. At the moment it is quite difficult to really make a decision because I've not had a real offer from MotoGP yet. But there is a chance it will come. There are many things to consider... I want to win, I want to go in MotoGP. It's really difficult.

Q:
If you move to MotoGP, will it be with Honda?

Michael van der Mark:
Well of course they have the first option on me and Honda has always been good to me. So I will definitely not say I will leave Honda because they have been so good to me through all these years.

Q:
There is talk of a new Honda Superbike for 2017? Might that be a part of your decision to move or not?

Michael van der Mark:
Of course this bike is older and even if there is a new bike is coming we don't know much about it. That makes it difficult to make a decision as well.

Q:
How do you think Eugene Laverty and Loris Baz are getting on in MotoGP?

Michael van der Mark:
I'm impressed by Laverty. Last year it was quite difficult because the bike they were on - even Nicky [Laverty's 2015 team-mate] was not competitive. The bike he has this year is old but he is going fast. That's not only good for him but good for Superbike riders. Loris Baz is also doing well. I think it's good for the whole Superbike paddock to see those guys going fast.

Q:
What would you be happy with this weekend?

Michael van der Mark:
I think the tyre wear will be the biggest factor for the races. To be honest I felt really good with the bike from the start. With used tyres I struggled a bit more, but I was still happy. I've only had that feeling a couple of times this year. Top five must be the goal and hopefully we can get another podium.

Q:
The first race will be on Saturday, what do you think of the new weekend format?

Michael van der Mark:
The race format is quite - I start to like it, but it's still quite weird to do a race on Saturday. Saturday evening you feel like, what happens now! You have to wait a long time for the second race.

For me, with the old format, the second race on a Sunday was always more easy, because you still have the adrenalin and stuff like that from the first race. I think for the team it is quite difficult because on Friday you have two one-hour sessions, then Saturday morning 15 minutes then Superpole, then a race. Everything is quite close on the Saturday.

So for them it is more difficult than me. But I'm starting to like the idea more.

Q:
The title fight looks like being Chaz against the Kawasakis...

Michael van der Mark:
From the beginning everybody was thinking it would be Kawasaki and then, Chaz was already fast, but from Aragon he's been really impressive. Not many expected that and it's good to see for the championship.

By Peter McLaren
 

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