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Strong Superpole for Voltcom Crescent Suzuki

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Team Suzuki Press Office – August 1.

Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes rode a thrilling World Superbike Superpole contest to take fifth place at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia this afternoon.

A challenging morning had left Lowes out of the top-10, with a turn four crash in the third free practice, but as the asphalt temperatures rose to almost 50°C for Superpole 1, the British racer set out determined to advance with his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R. His early appearance on the qualifier comfortably saw him into the second session with a 2’04.4 – six-tenths clear of the next rider – while his SP2 performance improved his lap-time to 2’04.018, lining him up on the second row of the grid – just behind Aprilia’s returning double World Champion Max Biaggi – for tomorrow’s races.

An exceptional start to Saturday saw Randy de Puniet secure his first direct qualification into Superpole 2 aboard his Suzuki GSX-R1000, setting a 2’04.8 lap on race tyres to take fourth in the final timed free practice, the dry but cool (for Malaysian standards) 28°C having only warmed the track to a manageable 33°C for the opening 45-minutes. Struggling for tyre grip as the temperatures soared, the Frenchman was unable to match his earlier time on the qualifying rubber but continues his improvement with a season’s best, claiming 11th and a fourth-row start with his 2’05.100 lap.

With the expected rains failing to materialise, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes reaffirmed his Superpole dominance with a 2’03.240. However, the threat remains in the air promising to provide further drama as Voltcom Crescent Suzuki return to the Sepang track for tomorrow’s two 16-lap races, scheduled to start at 13:30 and 16:30hrs local time (06:30 and 09:30BST).

Alex Lowes:

“Not a great morning as I made two mistakes, I don’t know maybe I just got out of bed on the wrong side! Maybe it was the best thing as it made me refocus for the FP4 and we did a good job. We realised where we had some issues with the bike, tried to make changes for qualifying and it did feel a lot better. I did a solid job in both sessions and my race tyre laps were ok, so if we can try something a bit more in that direction for tomorrow’s warm up it will be good. It’s going to be a tough couple of races, the front tyre seems to drop-off after about four laps and it becomes quite difficult. Riding in this heat is still quite new for me and I’m still trying to understand the best way to ride, but it was good, I enjoyed it and if I can do two solid races tomorrow I’ll be happy! To be on the second row for Suzuki – after what for me has been a really long time away – is great, my focus still feels good and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Thanks to the team – sorry for the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ this morning! – they did a good job today, we will try to improve a couple of steps for the morning and have two good races.”

Randy de Puniet:

“This morning in FP3 was perfect because I was third in the session. This afternoon in FP4 I started to struggle in the heat as the track temperatures were almost 20 degrees higher, we tried some adjustments but I continued to struggle in Superpole as the conditions were the same. I had a lot of movement with the front and I couldn’t ride as I had been this morning, and the qualifier had no grip in comparison to this morning’s race tyre, so I was three-tenths slower which I was disappointed with. We need to work tonight to try to improve the bike and I need to maybe change my riding style as the races will be in these conditions. It will be two hard races tomorrow but I would really like to find the same feeling I have had for the past two mornings, because I was good on the bike, fast and I enjoyed riding, so we will work tonight to find this step.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“Another very strong qualifying performance by Alex today, missing out on the front row by less than 0.2. We struggled a lot in FP3 to achieve the right balance in the bike and in terms of improving performance got nothing done in that session, so that set us back a little bit, but the team, and Alex himself, recovered very nicely.

“On Randy’s side, following on from Laguna, it has been a consistently strong performance this weekend, particularly in FP3 when Randy achieved a high 2’04 on race tyres and put himself into fourth position overall before Superpole. He rode well in Superpole but unfortunately couldn’t replicate the earlier form but hopefully with some help from his team can find some small improvements for tomorrow.

“For both riders it’s two long races tomorrow, particularly in this humidity, and in terms of challenging for a decent position, consistency is the key rather than outright pace.”

Sepang – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Superpole: 1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 2’03.240: 2. Jordi Torres (Aprilia) +0.270: 3. Sylvain Guintoli (Honda) +0.596: 4. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) +0.708: 5. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.778. 11. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.860.