Team Suzuki Press Office – February 22. Voltcom Crescent Suzuki racers Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes qualified fourth and fifth respectively today in the first Superpole session of the 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island in Australia.
Laverty, improving on the already consistent form shown this week, set a 1’30.385 early in the session to claim his position at the head of the second row. Finding his pace from the off, both his first and second flying laps were enough to challenge for the front of the grid; the Irishman set his fastest lap on a Pirelli race tyre and increased his confidence ahead of tomorrow’s opening races.
Lowes continued his stellar performance shown on Friday, capturing the fastest time in the morning practice to secure his place in the afternoon’s final Superpole. Even a heavy crash after just 25-minutes – which resulted in a dislocated ankle – couldn’t stop the Englishman, as he dug deep to continue the day’s events. He set the fourth fastest time in the final free practice, before taking on the top-11 riders for the battle for Pole Position. Lowes will have treatment overnight to make sure he is as fit as possible to take part in tomorrow’s two races on-board his Yoshimura-powered Suzuki GSX-R.
Sunday will see Voltcom Crescent Suzuki begin the challenge for the 2014 World Championship at the Australian circuit. The first race is schedule to start at 12:00 local time (01:00 GMT) with race two at 14:40 local time (03:40GMT).
“Second row! It’s not quite the front but we did our lap-time on a race tyre so to be right there at the head of the second row without a qualifier is definitely confidence inspiring. The qualifier just didn’t work for us; we had some vibration causing us to lose the ability to flow. Race setting was good so the aim now is to try for a good start, stay with the Aprilias and fight for a podium in the first race of the season.”
“I’m frustrated more than anything. I think we’ve made some really good steps with the Suzuki GSX-R. Dale, Russell, Ash and Lez have worked really, really hard with the bike and Tim, Davide and the whole team have worked to give me the bike that I’ve wanted. We’ve improved every time that I’ve gone out, obviously I’ve made a mistake this morning – a small mistake but with big consequences and they’ve had to work really hard to get me back out, so fair play to them. I felt I did as good as I could do in the qualifying, my foot was holding me back a bit and I really need to work on that tomorrow because the bike is better than me at the moment and it’s frustrating because I think we can do so much better. It’s nice to be injured and still be fifth, I think people would have taken that if I was fit! I’m happy, I’ve been fast every session and I believe that I can go well and it’s now a case of trying to get my ankle to the best that it can be and have two good races.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Today has been tougher than yesterday, particularly with Alex’s huge high-side this morning. The damage isn’t too bad but a normal person would definitely still be in hospital waiting for treatment! Shifting gears is the biggest restriction along with coping with the pain, but he’s done an amazing job so far to qualify fifth in his first ever World Superbike weekend. Alex is extremely fit and extremely tough and whilst the injury is going to be a restriction tomorrow I don’t expect it to hinder him too badly.
“Eugene has been consistently quick on the GSX-R throughout the test and the race weekend and it was no different today. It’s the first time that he has used a qualifier on this bike and unfortunately we just didn’t have the setting right to capitalise, so in the end his best lap was set on the race tyre that we will choose for tomorrow, which definitely augurs well.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the whole team and the riders and we are all looking forward to getting the 2014 championship underway tomorrow.”
Phillip Island – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Superpole: 1 Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1’30.038: 2. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +0.0097: 3. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) +0.294: 4. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.347: 5. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.383.