One of the most determined performances of the weekend, Michael van der Mark really did give a packed Assen crowd something to cheer about on Sunday in WorldSBK
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s second round at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands will go down in history as one of the biggest rounds of the season, regardless of what is to come. For a second consecutive year, big drama played out in front of the thousands track side, but those home fans were treated to a valiant performance further down. Making his return to action after a serious leg fracture in preseason testing, Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) wasn’t going to be halted in putting in a fine home display, and he didn’t disappoint with a staggering top ten in Race 2.
The weekend saw van der Mark get underway gingerly, with the five-time WorldSBK race winner hovering around the 20th place mark as he got himself dialled in – the first time on the 2022-spec BMW M1000RR. Having been 19th after FP3, van der Mark also made his debut with the SCQ tyre in Tissot Superpole, which placed him a respectable 15th, just two places behind his teammate Scott Redding. Half a second more would’ve put him inside the top ten. Race 1 saw him duke it out further down the field on his way to 13th place, being nabbed on the line for 12th by Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport Yamaha).
However, it would be a strong Sunday showing from the 29-year-old. Although he didn’t lose any positions in the Superpole Race, he didn’t gain any either, finishing 15th. This meant for a big Race 2 if he was to crack the top ten; after the dramatic collision between Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) left both of them out, it was a land of opportunity for those in and around the top ten to bag big points. Van der Mark had already made up positions but he was tenth after the accident had happened, before getting in a race-long battle with rookie Xavi Vierge (Team HRC), who was also injured with two broken ribs, and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing). Despite all the swapping and changing, van der Mark beat both of them to finish a highly commendable eighth place, 28.511s back of race winner (Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati).
Talking about his return to action and fine Sunday performance, van der Mark was elated: “I don’t think I have ever been that happy with a 13th and an 8th position, but today we went a lot faster, and I had good pace. I had some nice battles, and it was good to have those battles in front of a lot of fans that came out today; I was enjoying them, and they were enjoying it too! I came here with no expectations but today, I started to feel like I used to feel on the bike, and I was enjoying it even more than yesterday.
“Without the fans, we wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t be racing. I was really happy to see them, and it was fantastic to see them back in the paddock too, because that’s WorldSBK with the open paddock. It was great to see them and especially the kids because maybe they’ll replace me one day! I think we gained a lot of fans again.”
Speaking about his injury, van der Mark was pleasantly surprised as it improved through the weekend: “To be honest, I was quite surprised because every day, it felt better. One of the best things is that I had no swelling all weekend. Yesterday, somebody helped me between FP3 and Superpole and I made such a big step, and today I could feel it. We made another step on the bike, so I was really happy. The best thing for me was to be riding my bike again.”
The next round will be at the Circuito Estoril, where van der Mark was able to finish seventh and sixth in 2021 in some of the first races for the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team. Having missed the opening round of the season, van der Mark lies 15th in the standings, 18 points off highest-placed BMW rider Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) and nine points off his factory BMW teammate Scott Redding.
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