All winter long Alex Lowes and his WorldSBK crew have been concentrating on race setup for the start of the 2022 season - that has included working with the new forks that Showa brought to the works Kawasaki squad this year.
Concentrating almost exclusively on race pace was a strategy that paid off in Lowes’ first Kawasaki WorldSBK season in 2020, as he was ‘slow’ in pre-season testing at Phillip Island but then went on to podium and win a race when the first championship points came up for grabs. This year it has not worked out that way at Round One.
Lowes was not able to find the right front end feel he wanted in Race One at Motorland, to the point whereby he crashed out.
“It’s just a disappointment to start the year like that. I’ve struggled all week to find a good setting, even though I’ve worked hard. Maybe I worked too much in the winter on used tyres and old tyres. When it came time to be fast, I wasn’t quite as fast as I wanted to be,” Lowes told bikesportnews.com.
He was a deeply unhappy man on Saturday after his crash: “I think we just made some mistakes with the setting on the bike. It is frustrating really that with the experience we have got we ended up where we are. We all have to take responsibility.”
Lowes’ situation was transformed, if not to podium standards, on Sunday. He scored sixth in the Superpole race and then fifth in race two.
“I was happy with today,” said Lowes. “It was better than we managed last year in terms of race time. Last year, strange conditions helped us be able to get on the podium, but it was a special weekend. Today, in a bit hotter conditions, I felt quite good. I was not too far off the guys at the front. We’re just lacking a few tenths, but we’re also a step in front of the others. So, it’s not too bad. We just have a little bit of work to do.”
He explained what had changed on day two, saying, “It was a previous setting that we used. We didn’t discount what we learned in the winter, but we just went back to more of a base setting on the geometry of the bike. It felt a lot better. I was a lot more confident.”
When asked for more details on what was better, he said, “It was more stable, I guess, on the front,” said Lowes. “A bit more margin on the front. I could feel the front tyre a bit more. But we still lacked a bit of performance in the middle part of the second race.
“I was able to be there at the start, then from lap four to eleven, twelve, we were not fast enough. From then to the end, we were one of the fastest again. So, in the mid part of the race I’m not fast enough. We need to try to understand how I can extract a bit more performance.”
Lowes had a slightly easier time in taking fifth place in Race Two when Andrea Locatelli crashed, without injury, right in front of him.
“He was wide in Turn Eight,” said Lowes, when asked how involved he had been in his rival’s fall and its aftermath. “When he flicked over into Turn Nine he just caught the inside curb with the front wheel. He was in front of me. I wasn’t that close. I was sort of four or five bike-lengths behind, luckily.”
It was a lonely race from then on, according to Lowes. “I was thinking, ‘I’m going to be in the middle of nowhere,’ a gap in front and a gap behind. That makes the race quite tough. I couldn’t quite get close enough to them guys.”