Michael van der Mark, speaking the day after he spoke to the motorcycle racing word about leaving the PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team, the team he placed a fighting fifth for in ’20 WSBK title chase, for new employer the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team:
“That’s the ultimate goal,” answered the Dutchman when asked if he could be a race winner and title contender on the BMW M 1000 RR in 2021. “I think with Superbike we have some top riders and some top bikes there, and I hope we make a step forward and we will be able to fight with them. We want to win and we want to be successful. We have no other option.”
Five races into the 2021 season, how has it gone? The Dutchman spoke to RACER from his home in the Netherlands ahead of this weekend’s round at Most.
“Yeah, I think when we look back on 2021 so far, it’s not that bad, you know?” reasoned van der Mark. “We knew it was going to be a lot of work to be done with the new M 1000. We had some good results at the beginning of the year, but the distance to the top guys on the grid was just too much. Still, we are getting closer every weekend now.”
Beginning with the season-launching round at the MotorLand Aragon circuit in May where Van Der Mark strung together a mixed bag of 11/5/15 results, the globetrotting campaign has gone relatively well, bike and rider hovering around the top five to top 10 in race results. For that, van der Mark is grateful and optimistic.
“Yeah, definitely it has gone well,” he said. “We had a really tough weekend in Misano where nothing worked. None of us could get around the BMWs around Misano circuit well. However, BMW responded really quick and the next steps were that we had some new chassis parts. It was good. it was good to see that there is so much work going on behind the bikes. So many people are pushing this project. We will get there.”
A race winner and consistent podium finisher on the Yamaha YZF-R1 in 2020, van der Mark is well aware that Jonathan Rea and the Kawasaki ZX-10RR, as well as Toprak Razgatlioglu and the YZF-R1 and Scott Redding and the Ducati Panigale V4 R, are the forces to be reckoned with. But as he pointed out, that going to take a little time
“BMW are really, really pushing hard and I think we are making steps forward,” he said. “It’s always tough, though, you know? Sometimes you try to make steps forward and it’s not as good as you expected. That’s the only way. We have to try everything.”
“I think for us it is still more like working and experimenting. We don’t have enough experience, or our base isn’t big enough or good enough to say, “OK, this track will suit us” or “This track wont suit us.” I think for us it is to just keep working with what we have, and to try and improve all of it. For example, at Misano we thought we would have a really good weekend because BMW had really good results there in the past, but we got there and it just didn’t work. We just take it weekend to weekend and try to make progress.
“We want to get some more podiums soon. We’re making progress. We want podiums. We see the progress. It feels really good for everyone to get a podium finish. We want to keep doing that and it’ll be really nice to get there really soon.
“I think at the recent last round at Assen we were quite close, so yeah, we can get there and race for wins and podiums against these guys. Like I said, it’s just step by step and we have to keep working and to see how it goes every weekend on a different track.”
Five WSBK stops complete and with this weekend’s Czech round beckoning, van der Mark feels good about where both he and the M 1000 RR have been and where they are going.
“I do feel good about where we are at,” said the 28 year-old. “Like I said, we’re making good progress, but of course I want to get some more podiums. I want to do well every weekend, and it is the same thing that we all expect. We go step-by-step every weekend and see if we can improve. We just want to be on the podium as much as possible.”
With eight rounds and 24 races yet to be run in the 2021 WorldSBK Championship, there’s still an eternity to go before the Indonesian finale on November 13 and 14 and thus far, both van der Mark and BMW are quietly pleased with the team’s trajectory towards its achievements and goals.
“Yes, when BMW decide to go for it, they go all in,” said van der Mark. “That’s why I made this decision to join them.”