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Voltcom Crescent Suzuki 7th & 8th at Wet Sepang

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Team Suzuki Press Office – July 31.

Heavy storms hit the Sepang International Circuit today as round 10 of the FIM Superbike World Championship got underway with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes and Randy de Puniet claiming seventh and eighth in the free practice times.

A steady start to the weekend saw Lowes conclude the morning practice comfortably inside the top-10 – his 2’05.806 best set on 15-lap old tyres and already improving on his last year’s race pace. Pleased with his opening 45-minutes, the British racer aimed to focus his attention on fine-tuning his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R’s chassis balance, gearing and engine brake for the afternoon session, before a lingering midday deluge interrupted plans.

Waiting as the Malaysian track dried out, Lowes left the box with just five minutes remaining of the second free practice. Confident enough with the GSX-R’s rear feeling to set the second fastest time of the afternoon with a 2’12.5 on wet rubber, before a practice start on his way back to pit lane.

A similarly strong start saw Randy de Puniet’s time of 2’05.920 place him adjacent to his team-mate in eighth for the opening session. The afternoon plan – to concentrate on rear grip for the expected increasing temperatures and testing the new Pirelli option front tyre with his Suzuki GSX-R1000 – put on hold as the waterlogged track took the majority of the final practice to dry out. However, the Frenchman remains confident with the progression for the remainder of the weekend.
The morning began with ambient temperatures already at 29°C (track 35°C) before the storms set in for the afternoon.

Aprilia rider Max Biaggi returned to WSBK action setting the fastest time of the day – the quickest permanent rider just 0.149 seconds shy of his 2’04.823 best.

The first of two free practice sessions sees Lowes and de Puniet return to the Sepang circuit at 09:45hrs local time (02:45BST) tomorrow, with the Superpole qualifier on track at 15:00 (08:00BST).

Alex Lowes:

“It was nice to get back on my normal bike today. It was a shame about the weather this afternoon because I really felt like I was getting into it this morning after riding with a different bike and different tyres but hopefully tomorrow will be a bit more consistent and we can do some more laps. I really need some more dry laps as I don’t know the track too well, but I enjoy it a lot. It’s very different to any of the British circuits and I find it quite fun, so it will be nice to get some dry time tomorrow and see if we can do a decent job. The main aim now is to understand the tyres for the race – last year after four or five laps the tyres felt fine but after eight you can lose two seconds quite easily – so we need to make sure the tyre feeling, especially on the front, stays good for the race, enjoy riding and look forward to a good battle on Sunday.”

Randy de Puniet:

“It was a good day as we started well, like at Laguna Seca. This is the second weekend in a row, at two different tracks, where we are on the pace directly so I’m happy and confident for the rest of the weekend. We didn’t try out too many settings changes this morning as we were planning to work on set-up and tyres this afternoon, but unfortunately the weather was bad so this will have to wait until tomorrow morning. I’m in a good rhythm, I feel good with the GSX-R and I like the track so I’m confident for tomorrow and the races on Sunday, we will just have to see what the weather has in store!”

Sepang – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice Combined Times: 1. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 2’04.823: 2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +0.149: 3. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) +0.559: 4. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.668: 5. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +0.710. 7. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.983: 8. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.097.