A consistent weekend at Navarra allowed KRT’s Alex Lowes to consolidate fourth place in the WorldSBK Championship standings despite ongoing complications with his right shoulder.
A fifth and a sixth on Sunday showed that Lowes’ physical improvement was continuing, especially at such a slow, technical and very bumpy circuit such as Navarra. He was actively happy with Superpole but lost some pace in the second race, after getting messed-up with another rider and then not having his best package to fight with.
“The Superpole race was good,” said Lowes regarding the morning fight. “We made some changes on the bike from yesterday and I was stronger. I was able to get close to the guys. Pace felt quite good to the end, nice and consistent.
“We decided to keep the bike the same for the last race, even though temperatures went up. I got a good start again, but on lap one, turn nine is a bit tight. Everyone is trying to get in position because there’s not too many places to pass around here. Tom hit me. I had to release the brake, otherwise I was going to hit Locatelli. So, that was a shame because it put me back.
“Then I struggled to come back through. I was faster than Mikey Van Der Mark, but then it took me a long time, five or six laps, to pass him and then by the time I got to the back of Tom, my front tyre was moving a lot. Maybe in the hot conditions the bike wasn’t quite working as well as yesterday. Tom was pulling away on the straights and I would catch back a little bit, and it would just be that bit of a yo-yo effect.
“So, it was a frustrating race, really. I couldn’t really fight like I wanted to. I wasn’t fast enough, basically.”
Lowes had a fast crash at Navarra in testing this summer, but he is generally positive about the latest new arena for WorldSBK to play out in.
“I like the track,” the Kawasaki man confirmed after three races there. “I like the layout of the track, I think it’s quite good.
“I think that it’s hard to pass. It’s a one-line track. If you can’t pass on the straight, you’ve got to make a big lunge and maybe put the other guy off, and that’s hard. It’s hard to race like that. That’s why the tyres drop during the race. There’s less passing because you can’t make them big lunges when the tyres are gone, because you’re going to crash and take the other guy out.
“The first two or three laps there’s some good passing. It’s quite nice. But after then, the racing was quite difficult. So, if you can, pass on the straight, but if you can’t it’s risky and hard to pass. But the layout of the track I thought was quite good.”
Despite his ongoing shoulder issue plaguing him in recent weeks, the Derby-based rider confirmed it was not the biggest issue for him at the demanding track.
“To be honest, it wasn’t the limiting factor in the last race,” Lowes said of his physical condition.
“I’ve been working hard and it’s getting a little bit better. Depends on the track, so let’s see how we get on in Magny-Cours. It’s been a tough couple of months.
"When it’s not quite going well, it’s easy to make a lot of mistakes. So, to be able to keep getting some solid results – not where we want to be, but not dropping too many points - hopefully I can get stronger now in this next sort of quite busy period. A little bit off where we need to be, but it’s not a disaster.”
Lowes, now a seasoned rider in WorldSBK, was asked about the 2021 season in general, and how it is playing out. He replied, “It’s obviously closer. It’s quite good when the Ducati, the Yamaha and Kawasaki and them guys are having good battles every weekend. It’s not just down to the riders. It’s going to be down to the teams and the bikes to try to squeeze out the best they can from each situation.
"Hopefully I can start performing a little bit better, help Jonathan a little bit more. That’s the target. Obviously, it’s going to be a close run because the bikes have improved so much. I think we saw even here, we know with the size of Scott, I guess he’s 10 kilos heavier, at least five kilos heavier than Johnny. He passed before he got into fifth gear. Like I say, it makes the race a lot easier. I’m not saying that’s the reason he won the race. He did a great job. But the other bikes, they are improving and it’s making our life difficult, but that’s obviously good for the championship.
“We need to keep working hard. I need to try to improve so I can help Jonny a bit more. It’s going to be exciting, not just for us but for the fans and everybody. It’s good.”
Lowes also explained that he and his crew have been working on better launches off the line this season, and it is starting to show.
“We practiced a lot in the winter, basically. The way to start this bike is a lot different to the Yamaha in the past. You have to have a different technique. In the first three-quarters of last year I struggled, but since I’ve got it right, I’ve been good every time, really, which is obviously a positive. It helps if you can get off the start!” he joked.
The difference between Lowes and the rest, and his Kawasaki and the rest, is a question still not easy to answer. Lowes is still a strong fourth overall, although Locatelli and the other factory Yamaha are moving closer. Overall, he knows Rea is the main difference in any disparity in their results, for two main reasons it seems.
“Jonny rides the bike on the limit every lap,” said Lowes. “He’s very confident obviously from what he’s done the last few years and he’s able to, in all conditions, ride the bike on the limit.
“I’m not confident enough yet. I can in the hot lap, but over race distance to ride on the limit is too risky for me at the minute. I need to allow the bike to give me a little bit more feedback, or I need to build the confidence to be able to push every lap like that. Obviously, when you’ve been a little bit injured, it’s hard to push every lap. So honestly, he is pushing 110%. Everybody is pushing 110%, but to be there, he’s pushing really, really hard this year. You can see by watching him on the television.”