Team Suzuki Press Office – March 21.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes scored his first World Superbike front row today in the Championship’s debut Superpole qualifying at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand after claiming third position in a closely-fought battle.
With the entire field missing the majority of this morning’s third free practice session due to an unexpected downpour, Lowes was assured of his ascension into Superpole two. An impressive pace in the final mid-day practice saw the Suzuki racer begin his afternoon with confidence. Improving on his previous best with his second-flying-lap as the shoot-out for grid positions commenced, he headed his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R in for qualifying rubber, instantly breaking the 1’34 barrier on his return to the track. A 1’33.738 on his second attempt was enough to keep the Englishman in the top three, giving him his first front-row start on the world stage for tomorrow’s races.
Randy de Puniet’s difficult weekend continued, as the morning rain prevented him from truly assessing the braking issue that has been plaguing him all weekend. With the available track-time now diminished, the team worked hard to try to find a solution during the final 30-minute practice, but with the clock against them the Frenchman had to settle for 16th in the opening Superpole, and a sixth row start for his second Superbike race weekend.
Dark clouds and a cooler 29°C greeted the Championship for its inaugural qualifying at the Buriram Circuit as Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea claimed pole position with a 1’33.382.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki returns to the Chang International Circuit tomorrow for its first WSBK race, scheduled for 13:00hrs local time (06:00GMT) with the second instalment of action following later in the afternoon at 16:30hrs (09:30GMT).
Alex Lowes: “I’m happy with today! It’s my first time on the front row with the Suzuki, the boys have done a good job and we keep making little steps forward, not too much but we’re going in the right direction! I’m enjoying it and hopefully I can repay the lads tomorrow with a decent result because they’ve all worked very hard over the winter and last year as well. Thanks to the whole team, the boys on the other side of the garage as well because they’ve helped me out too, so cheers! To be fair the lap wasn’t my best, I could’ve gone quicker and I just didn’t quite put it together so that was a shame, but all that matters is that we are on the front-row, we’ve got a chance tomorrow and I can’t wait.”
Randy de Puniet: “The second round is very difficult for us because since the first practice I have been struggling with the brakes. It’s very strange, I have a bad feeling on the brakes and it’s very inconsistent, we don’t understand it yet and keep trying to find a solution. We have one more chance in the warm-up and I’m crossing my fingers to find something because without a solution it will be difficult for me. I will just try to stay calm, work with the team tonight and do my best tomorrow.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager: “Congratulations to Alex and the whole team on his first front row start in World Superbikes. He’s been consistently fast in every session this weekend and it was great to back-that-up with the qualifying tyre. Alex is either fastest or equal fastest in all the sectors apart from the last one, where we are struggling a little bit under braking into the last corner, so some engine-brake setting work tonight and a little bit more refinement should help him there for the races.
“Randy has really had a difficult two days, and honestly, we are at something of a loss to understand the braking problems he is having. Every component that can contribute to the problem has been changed, some of them twice, and the characteristic has remained the same, so tonight the team will work hard to see what else can be done and also to study the data compared to Alex to check against the braking style that may help. Despite Randy’s difficult two days at this new track we are obviously pleased to confirm the continued potential of the GSX-R and we are looking forward to the races tomorrow.”
Chang – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Superpole: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 1’33.382: 2. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +0.011: 3. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.356: 4. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.459: 5. Jordi Torres (Aprilia) +0.698. 16. Randy de Puniet Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) SP1.