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Lowes Storms to Second-Row Start at Assen

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Team Suzuki Press Office – April 18. Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes stormed to sixth in the World Superbike Championship Superpole qualifying at the TT Circuit in Assen in The Netherlands today.

Battling hard to overcome the electronics issues that have been plaguing the team’s development for the past two rounds, Lowes’ consistent progression and outright commitment sees him line his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000 up on the second-row of the grid for tomorrow’s two races at the iconic Dutch track after setting a 1’35.772 on his qualifying run this afternoon.

Detailed feedback and realistic expectations allowed the British racer to demonstrate his skills, pushing the GSX-R above and beyond initial aspirations. Circulating at a steady pace to allow system evaluations for the majority of the morning, Lowes secured his place in Superpole 2 with a 1’36.280 on his final timed revolution of free practice three before continuing the analysis at midday.

Randy de Puniet compounded his frustrating weekend at the Drenthe track falling foul of both tyre and electronic issues throughout the day’s three sessions. The Frenchman’s learning curve with both the Suzuki Superbike and Pirelli rubber proved to be steeper than originally anticipated and he concluded the opening Superpole session in eighth, placing him 18th on tomorrow’s grid.

Kawasaki dominated the proceedings at a cold but sun-drenched Assen circuit as Tom Sykes beat team-mate Jonathan Rea to Superpole glory with both riders setting pre-1’35 lap times.

The final calculations and preparations are now underway for Voltcom Crescent Suzuki ahead of Sunday’s two 21-lap races. Morning warm-up begins at 08:40hrs local time (07:40BST) with the first wheels turned in anger at 10:30hrs (09:30BST) and the second WSBK outing scheduled for 13:10hrs (12:10BST).

Alex Lowes:

“We still have a way to go to get the GSX-R to where we want it to be, and for me to be able to ride it with full confidence, but we have made steps forward so it’s been a positive day. The lads are all working hard and time is against us a little bit but we will do what we can tomorrow and keep pushing forward.”

Randy de Puniet:

“It was not a good day for me as we haven’t managed to find the solution I was looking for with the engine brake so we struggled in all of today’s sessions. I also suffered with the tyre grip, almost high-siding twice because of this and with vibration on the qualifier in Superpole, so we are 18th on the grid. This is not where I want to be and it is a difficult weekend coming straight after Aragon. I really hope for a good race tomorrow but in this condition I’m not sure where it is possible to finish.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“The challenges faced by the team here in Assen, in terms of getting the bike running well with the new Magneti Marelli ECU, have not reduced. A full day spent on the test bench this week in Holland (thanks to Hoegee Performance for the kind use of their facility) showed very positive progress but did not relate well to the track. We are finding many new problems, hidden software issues and strategies that work in simulation but the bike is not responding in the same way on the track.

“Despite this, progress is being made. Alex has probably out-performed the bike to be honest, and has done an incredible job to qualify on the second row. There have been numerous frustrations over the weekend and we have not been able to string consistent laps together as the top guys have. With that in mind, we hope to make further progress on the settings tonight and if Alex can finish two races tomorrow and score good points we will all be happy.”

“Randy, with less experience of the bike, has suffered the same problems but with an even bigger effect on his potential. We are doing everything we can to improve the situation, but simply copying the settings of Alex is not necessarily going to produce the results – we have to understand more what Randy needs and try our best to make the system react in a better way.”

Assen – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Superpole: 1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’34.789: 2. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) +0.131: 3. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +0.547: 4. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +0.636: 5. Michael van der Mark (Honda) +0.830. 6. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.933. 18. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) SP1.