It was a sort of bolt out of the ‘blue’ when this morning Yamaha made official the separation from Michael van der Mark, once this year’s SBK World Championship has come to an end. After four years, Yamaha and the Dutchman will go their separate ways in search of new challenges.
The rider's decision took the team by surprise, in particular Andrea Dosoli, responsible for the Superbike project, who will now have to understand how to move. Certainly, there will be no shortage of alternatives for 2021, also because the R1 is one of those bikes that appeal to some of the top men in the production-based series.
“To tell the truth, we were surprised by Michael's decision - Dosoli said - Yamaha did not expect his goodbye, however, this is his decision and we respect it. During the week we had the opportunity to have a face-to-face with van der Mark, who informed us of his decision to end his adventure with us once the season is over ".
Andrea let's go step by step. Yamaha first proposed the renewal to Michael. That’s what he said to us more or less three weeks ago…
"Exactly. Yamaha wanted to continue their path with Michael and in fact offered him a renewal of his contract for the next season. The company offered him the best deal based obviously on what the budget related to the Superbike project is. "
But he refused. Why? Money? Reasons?
"He simply told us that he was grateful to us for the commitment, but he wanted more. So he decided to look elsewhere. In the last few days, he informed us of his decision and this morning we communicated it officially. As I said, economically, we gave him everything that was possible ".
Don't you think that maybe, with the arrival of Toprak, he no longer felt at the centre of the project?
“I would say no because Michael and Toprak have always been considered front-line riders for Yamaha. Both have in fact received the same treatment from the team and there is not a first or second rider. Precisely for this reason we want to better face the restart of the Championship with Michael to end this four-year adventure in the best possible way. In fact, we would like to be able to achieve a lot of satisfaction together before saying goodbye ".
Some observers say that he will go to BMW, because he will be at the centre of the project there.
“I don't know his future (he smiles). You’ll have to ask him. "
Meanwhile there is a free seat in Yamaha. Some observers are talking about a return of Sykes.
“That wouldn't be a bad idea since Tom has been with us before. Our priority is to evaluate the riders we already have in house. In recent years, Yamaha has worked hard to make young riders grow and today there are a lot of candidates. "
There is Baz, Locatelli, Gerloff, but also Folger. Both Jonas and Loris have openly said that they would like the factory bike.
“We are aware of what the alternatives are on the table and we will make an in-depth assessment in this regard. We are certainly not in a hurry to decide, also because this 2020 is a particular year. There will in fact be few races and it will be interesting to see the potential of our riders".
But is there a deadline?
“A precise deadline no. The idea, however, is to define the second seat by the beginning of September, consequently after the first three or at most four races ".