A rollercoaster 2022 launch weekend for Sam Lowes saw the Marc VDS rider dig deep for a breathtaking Moto2 podium in Qatar.
Having already lost out on pole position due to track limits on his fastest lap of Saturday, Lowes lined up on the edge of the front row, in third for Sunday’s 20-lap season opener at the Lusail International Circuit.
Initial first lap chaos dropped the British rider down to eighth with the fightback resulting in his fastest lap of the race, a 1’59.062, as he found himself firmly amidst a four-rider fight for third.
The ensuing battle, including Elf teammate Tony Arbolino, former partner Augusto Fernandez and Honda’s AI Ogura lasted for the remainder of the race with the quartet repeatedly swapping positions as the laps counted down.
Due to the tendonitis issue in his left wrist, the 31-year old was struggling to stop the bike under heavy braking but nonetheless fought hard. Starting the final lap fifth, Lowes took advantage of the bickering duo ahead to claim third out of the final corner, crossing the line 0.078s ahead of Fernandez for his 24th podium finish in the Moto2 class and his third in a row at the desert location.
“It’s been a difficult couple of weeks but we had a good qualifying yesterday and a podium today!” Lowes reflected from Parc Fermé in Sunday night.
“That was a difficult race, I was not so fast. Ogura was real strong in the straight and I think me and Augusto [Fernandez] was a little bit stronger in the lap. So it was a difficult race because he kept passing us and I was not strong on the bike, physically to overtake in the lap. It was a nice battle but I couldn’t ride how I wanted to ride.
“Of course I got lucky in the last corner but I was already happy with a fourth/fifth place because it’s been a really difficult weekend for me. Difficult off season, I’ve done no laps. The front two guys had more pace than me. I was really slow in the first laps trying to get my arm warmed up and get back into the feeling of the race. But I'll take a podium! I've had a lot better weekend than expected and I look forward to Indonesia.
“Honestly I couldn't pass where wanted to pass,” he continued. “I was a little bit weak. I got close to like make a lunge but I wasn't strong to make a lunge so it was complicated but I enjoyed it.
“It's what you miss. You do the testing and you do the practice but the racing's where you feel that emotion and feel them moves.
“It's just important to get some points in the first race,” he explained. “If you don't, it's something less to build on for the second round. So it's just to get points on the board. We know last year I won the first two races and I was nowhere in the fight for the championship. So this year, hopefully we can build up and keep going.
“Obviously the podium is amazing. I think I've been really lucky that this weekend was in Qatar. It's a track that suits my style. I can go fast round here so I think if it had been at a different track I'd have struggled a lot more but hopefully we have some time to recover now for Mandalika.
“Overall, I have to be quite happy with the weekend. The team did a fantastic job because over the winter we didn’t really have anything to build on. I've done not many laps all through testing, then when I did ride in testing I was not very fast or I had a crash and lost a lot of confidence so even without the arm I was not feeling so good. They’ve done brilliantly to give me a fantastic bike so I can look forward to a positive season.”