Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes secured fifth place at the Philip Island Grand Prix Circuit today during the inaugural World Superbike Superpole of 2015.
Setting a 1’32.042 on race rubber on his first timed-lap, the British racer was denied the chance to compete on qualifying tyres due to a red flag and subsequent early termination of the session. A steady start to the day had seen Lowes improve on his positions finishing 8th and 4th respectively in the final free practices before a dramatic high-speed crash in the closing minutes of Saturday’s only non-timed session saw Lowes revert to his spare GSX-R1000 for the Superpole qualifying.
Randy de Puniet’s instruction in the Superbike class continued with an ever-improving performance aboard his Yoshimura-powered Suzuki, matching his Friday best with a 1’31.885 in Superpole’s hotter conditions. His advancement to Superpole 2 should have been an inevitability, however the opportunity was lost due to a late-discovered rule-infringement from a competitor demoting him to third in the session, and forcing the Frenchman to start his first World SBK race from 12th.
As the Australian sunshine scorched the asphalt to an ever-rising 58°C, Kawasaki rookie Jonathan Rea claimed the pole position from the red flag.
An evening of preparation awaits the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki squad at the Victoria circuit ahead of the opening races of the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship season scheduled for 12:00hrs local time (01:00GMT) and 14:40hrs (03:40GMT) tomorrow.
“Not as easy today, but we’ve still ended up in a good grid position. I made a mistake in the warmer temperatures in FP4 and tucked the front at turn one and enjoyed a 200kph body-slide but I’m 100% ok, and have to say a big thanks to the guys at RST for making me such strong leathers - the bike wasn’t as lucky! The boys did a great job getting the spare bike set up for Superpole but it was the first time I’d ever ridden it and didn’t go as fast as I would have liked on the race tyres but needed to play my way back into it after the crash. The target for tonight is to see how we can improve the GSX-R for today’s hot conditions which have completely changed the character of the track. Thanks to all the team for doing a great job, whatever the conditions tomorrow I’ll be giving it everything and looking for two really good finishes.”
Randy de Puniet:
“It wasn’t easy, but we worked well to adjust the bike and FP4 was really good, I had a good pace, but I knew for me that Superpole would be difficult because I struggle with my injuries to push for a one-time attack, needing some time to warm-up on the GSX-R. I should have been able to move into Superpole 2 but one rider in front of me used two qualifying tyres, unfortunately they did not discover this until later so I finished in third and was out and I am disappointed that I didn’t get the opportunity to go out again in Superpole 2. I will start the race in 12th, it’s not the best place to start but I hope to feel good, I just need to wait for two or three laps to feel good on the bike and hope that I don’t lose too many positions, can stay with the group and keep a good rhythm. It will be two difficult races tomorrow for me but I am here, which is the most important thing, and I will try to take as many points as I can.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“The Australian summer has hit Phillip Island today and whilst the blue skies are great for the surf beaches, for us it’s created some challenges to achieve the same level of performance that the GSX-R was capable of when it was slightly cooler. The team will be looking at ways to give the bike back some of its front grip and to help the riders have a slightly easier job.
“Alex made his first very small error in a long time, he never does it by halves and chose probably the fastest corner in motorcycle racing to do it, but we are just so glad that he is 100%, which is the most important thing. Considering the crash, the qualifying position of fifth is fair and gives us a good chance to get involved with the front group tomorrow.
“Randy’s condition is still far from perfect, Chris Vermeulen just told him he looks 64 rather than 34 and I’m not sure that helped but it’s certainly true! However, he has improved again today, back in the 31’s even in the hotter temperatures, which was good for fifth position in FP4, but he got unlucky in Superpole. He should have been put through to Superpole 2 but one of our competitors broke regulations and used two qualifying tyres in the first session so it didn’t happen. The target for Randy tomorrow is to finish the races in as good a position as we possibly can, hopefully the rear tyre life of the bike will help us, along with his experience, to grind out two decent results.”
Phillip Island – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Superpole: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 1.31.212: 2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +0.026: 3. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +0.295: 4. Michael van der Mark (Honda) +0.401: 5. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.830. 12. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki).