Racing at true world level and challenging for a title always demands more, even for race winning teams.
Many areas of improvement have been evident throughout the past few years, culminating in race wins for the Yamaha R1 in 2018 and 2019. Last season the team’s riders finished third and fourth in the overall championship rankings, making it the most successful season since the reformation of an official Yamaha effort in 2016.
The concept and design of the 2020 machine is based on the successful previous model, but the latest homologation features a raft of improvements to allow the riders and team to take the fight for ultimate success to what is an ever-increasing level of competition from its rivals.
Winner of a race at Jerez last year, Michael van der Mark is back for his fourth year on the official R1, but this year there is a revamped cross-plane four-cylinder machine under his command. He has taken three career race wins in WorldSBK, part of a total of 29 podium finishes in all.
A seasoned WorldSBK campaigner and very much in his prime at 27 years-of-age, Michael aims to be a more consistent winner and podium finisher in 2020, having already built up a good relationship with his new R1 in testing after three seasons racing the previous version. Already a WorldSSP and European Superstock champion in his earlier career, he is impatient to add the biggest production-derived crown to his list of achievements.
Joining Michael in 2020 is proven race winner and 15 times podium scorer, Toprak Razgatlioglu. At only 23 years-of-age, Toprak has blossomed into a rider who can already beat the best in a fair fight and who is now looking to the new R1 to allow him to do that on a more consistent basis. Few in WorldSBK think there is a greater natural riding talent around than Razgatlioglu, making his inclusion inside the Yamaha camp a statement of intent in its own right.
Already a star in his native Turkey and a protégé of compatriot and WorldSSP legend Kenan Sofuoglu, Toprak has made a swift transition to the latest Yamaha R1 after a five-year career spent with a rival manufacturer. Like Michael, Toprak was a Superstock 600 European champion before moving up inside the WorldSBK paddock.
As well as one new rider and the new 2020 R1, the team has made another change in its structure to try to hit a higher target, the line-up of its crew chiefs. This is a decision never taken lightly – such is the importance of this close link between rider and technical staff on each side of the garage.
Double WorldSSP champion Andrew Pitt has moved across the garage from his 2019 crew chief duties with Alex Lowes to maximise van der Mark’s on-track efforts. Toprak, after two seasons of real achievement as an independent rider in WorldSBK, has his 2019 crew chief Phil Marron joining him at Pata Yamaha, keeping their connection strong as they move into the realms of official team racing on a machine which is all-new to both. So far, so very good as the young Turkish rider has topped the timesheets at some winter tests and Michael has exploited fertile new areas for race-long performance gains.