2023 is a particularly important year for Rokit BMW’s Michael van der Mark, as he attempts to bounce back from two serious injuries that wrecked his 2022 season.
It has been a tumultuous start to the season for all four BMW riders in WorldSBK racing. The new homologation of the M1000RR has proved every bit as fickle as the previous one and of course all the other manufacturers have hardly been standing still over the winter.
Van der Mark had a huge crash that he walked away from at Phillip Island. He would go on to have another in Race Two at Mandalika, but he only suffered a broken finger in a highside that halted the first attempted running, after Philipp Oettl could not avoid VDM’s fallen machine.
It was not all bad news for the Dutchman at Mandalika, however, as he scored a fine sixth place in Race One. Not bad for a rider who had been 14th on the first lap, and especially for any BMW rider. His was the best individual performance for the German manufacturer at Mandalika, and in the Superpole Race he finished eighth, 4.7 seconds from race winner, Toprak Razgatlioglu.
Speaking about his Saturday race, and why it was so strong compared to the BMW starting average, VDM said, “To be fair, I felt really good with the bike. Normally there are a lot of points where, when compared with others, they are a lot stronger, but in this track for some reason the bike just works. The base we have is working really well here. On Friday I was just enjoying it, same for today’s race.”
The difference between a tough qualifying and a satisfying Race One result was explained by van der Mark as a bit of bad luck, most of all.
“In the Superpole qualifying, on my second tyre I had a yellow flag. I was on my way to even better, so I was really unlucky. Other than that, I felt really strong. Today in the race I had a good start but I just took the outside in Turn One. That was unlucky with the other riders colliding and someone crashing. So, it’s a choice you have to make. I lost a lot of time there, but I was really surprised with my pace at the end.”
Remarkably, VDM was one who had no real front tyre drop at a circuit that seems to eat front tyres in every session.
“I had no issues,” admitted Michael “Already from the start, the front was a bit moving but it stayed the same the whole race. I think in this track it’s also how you ride and how you use the front tyre.
“I tried to use not so much corner speed the whole race and I tried to manage the tyres a bit. I think that’s what saved me at the end of the race.
“I used the SC2 and the SC0 tyres. We feel with the SC2 it gives us more stability and a good feeling. For me, it’s the best combination.”
On a slightly new bike, with mostly aerodynamic changes, the question had to be asked, ‘What’s the real difference you can feel in your bike now from last year?’
“It just does what you want it to do,” said VDM, before qualifying it. “The change of direction is a bit heavy. We’re still missing some drive out of the corners, for example turn ten, but all these areas have improved. Like I said, with the others, there’s not one point where they are pulling away massively or I’m struggling a lot. So, in the end we’re talking about a few tenths, the most difficult ones, but I think today when I was riding with the others we showed that it’s not a real bad package.”
The absolute best package awaits, of course, and van der Mark wants to see some new parts to aid his race pace. “I think we have it quite sorted now. We have to go fast and that’s why we need some new parts. Right now we have a good setup. We know what we can do, but if we want to go faster, sure I can go a bit faster and push harder and try harder, but to make my life a bit easier we have to have new parts and test them.”