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Lowes & Voltcom Crescent Suzuki Top-6 at Donington

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Team Suzuki Press Office – May 22.

Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes started his home World Superbike race weekend in stellar form completing today’s three timed sessions at the UK’s Donington Park in sixth position.

A difficult start to Friday’s revised schedule saw the Derby-based racer set only 20 laps across the first two 45-minute sessions, due to the continuing electronics development to his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R, but despite this, and a low-side crash in the closing minutes of free practice two, Lowes’ 1’29.0 was still enough to keep him comfortably in the top-10, with the seventh fastest time. Returning to the track for the final timed session late this afternoon, the improvements made were evident during the 18 laps completed, just one-10th-of-a-second separating Lowes from third – and 0.4 from provisional pole – at the close of play.

Randy de Puniet’s development with the Suzuki Superbike also took a dramatic step at the team’s home track, with the Frenchman completing the opening day just a second from the fastest time. His confidence with the GSX-R1000’s new control system growing, de Puniet executed 48 laps to finish the day in 14th and positive of more to come ahead of tomorrow’s Superpole.

While the British clouds threatened rain, the track remained dry with ambient temperatures of 19°C heating the track to a comfortable 30°C by the afternoon. Last year’s victor, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, defended his position from the outset claiming the fastest time in two of the three sessions on his way to the day’s provisional pole.

Lowes and de Puniet return to Donington Park for the final, non-timed, free practice at 09:30BST tomorrow morning before an earlier-than-usual Superpole, scheduled for Midday.

Alex Lowes:

“We’ve improved in every session and improved every time we’ve changed the bike today, and while it’s still a work in progress, the lads are doing a great job. It’s really, really nice to be riding at Donington, I’m enjoying it a lot and I feel like I’m riding pretty well. I feel like we should be able to improve more compared to the rest – it doesn’t always work like that and with how the last few races have gone for us we just need to have a couple of consistent finishes – but I’m riding the bike well and we are making steps in the right direction. So I’m quite optimistic about tomorrow and hoping we can achieve a couple of good races on Sunday.”

Randy de Puniet:

“It was a positive first day at Donington. This morning we struggled with the same problem from the previous races but having the three sessions today was good for us. The step wasn’t big between the first and second sessions, but it was in the right direction – improving the engine brake but not the traction control or connection issues. In the last session we also improved the traction control so now the connection is the critical focus for me. The bike is not perfect yet but now we can continue to focus on improving this. I am only one second slower than the pole position so it is a big improvement and I really hope that during FP4 we can find some more tenths so I can get the jump into Superpole 2 and try for two good races.”

Paul Denning -Team Manager:

“It’s not a surprise that it’s been another challenging Friday and the team is in general quite jaded after many more late nights and more track testing this week. That said, we are making progress and the bike is now reacting to setting changes in a more normal and predictable way. This means we are able to start thinking about setting the bike up to race rather than just to function. Alex did very few laps in FP1 and FP2 due to electronics related durability problems, but we got it right in FP3 and considering the lack of laps and chassis setting work we have been able to do today, sixth place and so close to the best time is a brilliant effort.

“Randy has gone through a very difficult patch and had lost some confidence, but a good test on the Suzuki MotoGP™ bike in Le Mans on Monday and being able to use some of the improvements we have found here today at Donington, has seen a significantly better performance; 14th position may not seem exciting, but a gap of only one second to P1 is a huge step forward and we hope to continue in this direction.”

Donington – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice Combined Times: 1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’28.172: 2. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +0.111: 3. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) +0.311: 4. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +0.344: 5. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +0.370: 6. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.400. 14. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.075.