Race day at Phillip Island, and both riders looked to start their season off with a bang. So far this week, the ROKiT BMW Motorrad M 1000 RR World Superbike has looked in top form, netting a plethora of fast times from both Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlioglu, who looked to impress in his first competitive showing on the bike. The announcement of a flag-to-flag race format featuring a mandatory pitstop was bound to shake up the races, due to extreme tyre wear at the Melbourne based circuit.

Toprak Razgatlioglu’s day got off to a promising start, only 0.003 seconds off the fastest time in FP3, before settling for P5 on the grid in the Superpole. The first race of the season showcased an incredible battle in the lead group, Toprak climbing as high as P2 before the pitstop, however an infraction during the mandatory pit stop, leaving the pit lane 0.2 seconds under the minimum time of 63 seconds, meant a time penalty for Razgatlioglu, demoting his P4 finish into P5 as he passed the chequered flag.

Michael van der Mark washed out in the slow speed turn 4 during Superpole, before picking his bike up and returning to pit lane. It was integral that Michael posted a good lap time on the board before the end of the session, and although his best qualifying lap was a personal best around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, it was only good enough for P16. In Race 1, van der Mark showcased a masterful ride, gaining 10 positions after the pitstop, and flirting with the lead group in P6. A late battle led to Michael crossing the line in a magnificent P7, making the most progress through the field out of every rider in Race 1.

Quotes following Saturday at the Phillip Island round.

Shaun Muir, ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team Principal: “I’m very happy for both riders, Michael had a great race coming from P16 on the grid, working his way through the field patiently to get himself into a very strong position come the pit stops. A good slick pit stop by his team got him back out where he settled into a really good rhythm in P6. He was probably two to three seconds off a podium position at that point in time, which was easily the time he had lost moving from P17, so for Mickey to come home with the bike in P7 overall is a fantastic result for him, great for his confidence and he couldn’t have done any better so we’re super happy with that. Toprak is really frustrated, clearly we couldn’t give him a package with tyre durability to last the full 10 laps, which became apparent very early on in the week with the abrasive track conditions. But in his fighting spirit, in his first race on the BMW M 1000 RR he didn’t let us down, he battled at the front for as long as he could. The biggest point for him was that he couldn’t ride to his full potential, he couldn’t use the full power, he’s having to run on a softer map to get the tyre to last the race distance, where as i’m pretty sure most of the riders on the grid had much more use of their power. but the signs are there that it’s going to be a very strong season for him and he can move forward from this position. He’s got two more races this weekend and I think if he comes away in a similar position to where he was today, in third, fourth, fifth, then I think it’s going to really be a solid start from him for when we fly back to Europe.”

Toprak Razgatlıoğlu (#54 BMW M 1000 RR, ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team):The start of the race was not bad. I stayed at the front and my feeling was good at the beginning of the race. In the last laps, I was pushing harder but kept trying to safe my rear tyre because this track is very difficult for the rear tyre. We did ten laps but on the last two laps I was feeling the vibration. We finished the race in fifth position, normally in P4 but I got a penalty. It was also strange because I saw ‘0’ on my dashboard and exited from the pit lane. Maybe there was some GPS problem, I don’t know. Also, Alex Lowes passed me at the pit lane exit and I did not take an advantage. But anyway, I started fifth and finished in the same position. Fourth would have been better and I hope that we will improve tomorrow. Now I have one race with BMW under my belt. I am not happy as my target was to get onto the podium in the first race but I know that this is not an easy race because the tyre is done after ten laps. Anyway, we have some data, we started to work on improvement and I hope we make another step tomorrow. My target is the first podium, especially here in Australia, because this track is not easy for me and I hope we will achieve that.

Michael van der Mark (#60 BMW M 1000 RR, ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “In Superpole, I messed it up. I crashed on my first run and then, you know, you need to set a time. My time was okay but I didn’t improve as I wanted to. So P16 on the grid is far from ideal. We didn’t really know what to expect from the race with the pit stop. So on one hand it was quite nice because I could push really hard for the first ten laps. I had an okay start, not fantastic. You’re just busy when you are starting from P16. Step by step I managed to move forward. I had a good pace, I was able to pass a lot of people. I think I was one of the last to do a pit stop. After the stop, I pushed as hard as I can but I couldn’t close the gap to the group in front of me and I did not have the same feeling as I had before the stop. Anyway, to finish seventh after coming from P16 is a good start to the season, I think.”