INTERVIEW: Michael van der Mark

INTERVIEW: Michael van der Mark

Bikes

INTERVIEW: Michael van der Mark

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The town of Gouda in the Netherlands is 103 miles away from the fabled TT Circuit Assen that hosted the recent Motul Dutch Round of the 2022 FIM Superbike World Championship. And that’s the trek Michael van der Mark made last weekend when he competed in the first rounds of the WSBK World Championship for the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team.

Coming off a leg injury that sent the Dutchman to the sidelines all winter long, the eight-year WSBK pilot was able to finally return to action at his home circuit, climbing onto the 2022-spec BMW M1000RR and thrilling the 50,000+ Dutch fans who showed up to see how their homegrown racer would fare. Race 1 on Saturday afternoon at Assen brought a somewhat mediocre 13th place finish for van der Mark, but on Sunday he rebounded from a 15th-place starting position to finish eighth.

Q: Your first race of the year was your home event at Assen. What did you make of the weekend’s events?

MICHAEL VAN DER MARK: I wasn’t fit. I was just happy to go out there and see how it was going to go. I went out on Friday morning for P1 and I felt alright, but the bike is always different.Every session the bike felt better, but it was tough because on Friday I think the maximum I did on the track was about five laps in a row. It’s also frustrating because you want to do more, but you have to say calm. I love being home. But when you are always traveling, you start missing it. We are always in the paddock and it is like a second family when you see everyone. Sometimes you see the people in the paddock more than the people at home! I missed all of it. It’s just the whole thing, you know? Getting ready, going on the bike, going out on the track and riding with the others… Luckily at Assen, we came back.

Q: I was speaking with Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes and the subject of competition came up. It’s hard to find an edge in the WSBK paddock these days, huh?

MVDM: Yeah, exactly. Assen is already a circuit where the lap times are very close, and now with how the World Superbikes are, it’s getting even closer. If you’re not fully fit now, you’re really down the list. It’s even worse than before.

Q: You now have the three WSBK Assen races behind you. At the very least, you can now be out there in the mix and be able to see where everything is at.

MVDM: Yes. Exactly. Luckily, the whole team stayed really calm because as racers you always want to win and you always want to be the fastest. We knew it was our very first laps of the year and we needed to stay calm. At Assen the whole team said to me, “You go out and do what you want. If you want to stop or if you want to come in, just do whatever you want. We are here to support you.”

2021 FIM Superbike World Championship, Round 13, WorldSBK, Mandalika, Indonesia, November 19-21, 2021, Michael van der Mark, BMW

Q: How is your BMW M 1000 RR? Due to your leg injury, you have not really been able to test and the develop the motorcycle, and your BMW teammate Scott Redding has said that the BMW motorcycle is still “too far away…” Thoughts?

MVDM: Well, yeah, we knew that we had some work to do. Last year during our last test week we improved a lot on the bike. It’s a shame that I missed all winter testing because we’ve got a lot of new parts. Even now at Assen, we did not change anything on the bike because I’m not fit enough to get the maximum out of the bike right now. I don’t really think it is fair to say how the bike is right now and where we need to improve. For sure we know that we need to improve, but for me, it’s also difficult to say where the bike did improve compared to last year.

Q: The Estoril round will run next on May 22 and 23. How will you approach that round as well as the following WSBK rounds that come after?

MVDM: We now have three or four weeks off before we go to Portugal. For me, the main thing is getting fit again. I hope I can ride in Portugal without any limitations and with a more normal feeling. Then we can start to work on the bike with development. As I said, if you’re not fully fit, especially with my injuries, you have to stay calm because if you’re not able to do the same thing every lap, it’s quite easy to get lost if you want to develop something. That is the only thing we can do, because we know the bike is not a winning bike yet. All of us know that and the only thing we can do is work and try and improve it.

Q: Do you feel good about the potential you, the team and the M1000RR have?

MVDM: Yeah, I can see that the boys are working really hard to get new parts and we really want to try a lot of things. We all want to go in the same direction. We all know where the problems are and we want to improve them. All of that gives the rider a really good feeling. Like I said, we know we don’t have a winning bike yet, so the only thing we can do is work hard and I think that what I feel the boys are doing. I think they are all trying really hard, especially when everything in the sport is so close and so competitive. It’s difficult to make big steps. Sometimes we make steps, but they are small ones, you know? We have to take all of that and keep improving.

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