Kawasaki’s Alex Lowes was a confident and fast companion for the championship ‘Big Three’ in WorldSBK at Estoril, only dropping back later in race two to finish in what was probably a best possible fourth place.
“I was happy,” said Lowes. “In the second race dry conditions, at least I was able to mix in with them for 12, 13 laps. No one has been able to do that. That’s nice, because I’ve been a long way off. It looks worse, the start of the year because of the two DNF’s at Assen. If you take that out, I’ve been pretty consistent all year.
“In the practice here, I struggled a bit. The base setting we sort of had from the winter and the first two rounds didn’t work here, but it’s a little bit of a strange track. You need to put the bike on its nose a bit more to turn. So, once we got that worked out, the bike has been working quite well. I felt good this morning in the wet. I was a little bit cautious the first few laps of the Superpole race. I was on slicks and a couple of the corners were a little thin line. I wasn’t brave enough. So, I dropped right back. Then my speed at the end of that race was good.
“The changes we made on the bike from yesterday were good. I knew from the second row in the last race my pace was going to be quite good. Used the SCX and I felt good apart from the last five or six laps. We destroyed the rear tyre quite a lot, so this is something I need to work on with the setting but in general it’s been a pretty solid weekend.”
What Lowes has regained, despite a double technical DNF at Assen, is confidence. Self confidence is a simple necessity for any rider to perform at their best.
“Last year was so hard for me,” explained Lowes. “I was injured all year and I never felt good on the bike, even if I had some good races and stuff. So this winter, I felt a lot better on the bike. My confidence is slowly coming.
“I’ve been working hard with the team, especially races like this weekend, where I was tenth, in practice eleventh, not to make a mistake. Just accept the position I’m in and build on the confidence. Maybe when I can arrive to battle with those guys consistently, I’ve got the foundations to do it all the time, not just one race or one session.
“I know I can go fast. I’ve always been able to go fast. That’s what we’re working on. It feels like it’s coming quite well. It’s harder now in Superbike that everybody is closer. It’s good. It’s a good time to be a WorldSBK rider, I guess.”
Lowes had some issues under braking, as well as his overall set-up not working with the tyres for full race distance.
“I had an inconsistent lever,” he explained. “I came down and the lever was coming soft. I would try and adjust. Especially turn one and turn six with such big braking zones, that was a shame. I was just struggling to be consistent on the front brake, but hopefully we can understand why because there’s other tracks. Donington, for example, is a heavy braking circuit, so we need to try to get on top of that because that was a shame. When you lose the gap, then I had to settle for fourth and just manage the gap behind. Otherwise, Toprak I don’t think was that much faster than me in that race. Could have been a chance. Them three riding out there, I had many chances to fight for a clear podium. So today, I was not too far away.”
Lowes understands that there is a gap between the ‘Big Three’ and everybody else, and he was asked if he had picked anything up from the eventual podium riders.
“Yeah,” he confirmed. “The small chicane, nine and ten, I was so fast on the entry but too fast in the middle. It sounds like something that you should realise (yourself). I was going too fast between nine and ten and I was compromising the exit. When I was behind Jonny and Toprak, I was nearly hitting them there. I was thinking, ‘I must be wrong because if I’m nearly hitting them it means something I’m doing is wrong at that point.’ So then I changed my line a little bit and that was good to understand that section, because it’s a section that I have been struggling with a little bit. Then it felt quite good.”
One particular set-up change helped Lowes with his front end feel in race two, which helped him attack the others under braking.
“We made a change to the top of our spring on the Showa forks for today,” said Lowes on Sunday. I could put the bike where I want. It’s nice to have the confidence to be able to do that. I enjoyed it.”