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Top-Six for Lowes at Imola WSB

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Team Suzuki Press Office – May 8. Alex Lowes put his Voltcom Crescent Suzuki into the top-six on the opening day of World Superbike action at Imola’s Enzo e Dino Ferrari racetrack this afternoon after continued developments to the new ECU system began to bear fruit.

Improving on his time from the morning’s first free practice session by a second and a half, Lowes completed the day’s 90 minutes on-track with a 1’48.660 on his final revolution having completed 26 laps aboard his Yoshimura-powered Suzuki throughout the two sessions. The detailed electronics analysis continued both on and off-the-track with the team feeling confident for the weekend’s progression.

A reoccurring throttle connection issue and an unfortunate early high-side at turn 3 with 15 minutes remaining of the morning practice had initially hampered Randy de Puniet’s first day at the Italian circuit on his GSX-R1000. However, with the issue detected and rectified the afternoon proved more promising: On the timesheets the set-back leaves the Frenchman currently sitting in 18th position but his crew remain confident that improvement can come quickly as the weekend continues.

Track temperatures hit 41°C for the mid-afternoon session as the Italian sunshine bathed the fans at the iconic Imola circuit. Kawasaki dominated the combined times as Jonathan Rea bettered team-mate Tom Sykes with a 1’47.344 heading into tomorrow’s final qualifying practice.

Action returns to Imola at 09:45hrs local time (08:45BST) tomorrow as Alex Lowes and Randy de Puniet bid to secure qualification for the afternoon’s Superpole. Grid places for Sunday’s 19-lap races will be decided from 15:00hrs (14:00BST).

Alex Lowes:

“We’ve had some niggling issues today but the lads are working really hard and we’re making big steps over time. We haven’t been able to do as many laps as I would have wanted but we’ll work on the data tonight, chip away at it, and hopefully we can make another big-step with the consistency and get a bit closer to the front guys tomorrow. It’s really nice to be back in Imola, I’m enjoying riding the GSX-R and I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”

Randy de Puniet:

“This morning the bike was not perfect so I pulled in after five laps and the rear tyre was completely destroyed, we tried with a new one but I crashed on my out-lap so my session was finished. This afternoon we tried to start with some adjustments but unfortunately the bike was not receiving the map so I was making no improvements and we lost most of the session. We have started to make progress at the end but we have lost a lot of time so it is not easy, but we will see what we can do tomorrow.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“Despite successful electronics developments last week, Imola – as expected – has thrown-up some significant challenges today in terms of getting the setting right and providing the riders with predictable performance. Even with some issues we’ve made good progress on Alex’s side and to be in the top-six and only just-over a second off P1, considering some of the improvements that still need to be made, is very encouraging and gives the team a decent base to continue developments tomorrow.

“Imola is effectively new to Randy – having only ever ridden a 125cc bike round here 16 years ago – and that, combined with some continued electronics-setting issues this afternoon and a very unlucky high-side accident on an out-lap this morning, haven’t created the best platform for him to move forward. I’m sure we will start tomorrow with the same setting for both riders as Alex’s’ bike is getting closer to the mark, step-by-step; and hopefully that will help Randy to move forward.”

Imola – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice Combined Times: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 1’47.344: 2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.173: 3. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +0.238: 4. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +0.342: 5. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +0.710: 6. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.316. 18. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +4.788.