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De Puniet Heads Voltcom Crescent Suzuki in Qatar

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Team Suzuki Press Office – October 17.

Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Randy de Puniet concluded his first Superbike World Championship night practice with a strong eighth place at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar today.

Starting with the settings from the Malaysian race in early August, de Puniet continued to fine-tune his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R, feeling confident with the engine braking and chassis settings from the outset. The Frenchman set his fastest time – 1’59.170 – on his penultimate revolution of the evening, improving by just under a second from his opening best.

Both Suzuki riders got off the blocks with a positive start in the first free practice sitting sixth and seventh in the times after the 45-minute session – Alex Lowes just 0.050 ahead of his team-mate with a best lap of 1’59.999. Utilising race two settings from last year’s visit to the Losail track, Lowes improved his time in the late-night second-stint to a 1’59.448 to claim ninth in the combined times, despite only completing 10 laps in the final session as he struggled to gel with his GSX-R1000.

The British racer will return to the set-up used in recent rounds from tomorrow’s final timed free practice in a bid to regain his rhythm and confidence ahead of Sunday’s final 17-lap contests.

Air temperatures still registered 31°C with a track high of 35°C despite the late evening start times, with Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea setting the fastest time of the night – a 1’58.252 – to claim control of the times heading into Saturday’s qualifying. Lowes and de Puniet will be back on their Suzuki GSX-Rs for free practice three at 18:00hrs local time (16:00BST) tomorrow while a reversal of the usual order sees Superpole commence at 20:45 (18:45BST) before the final free practice hits the track at 23:45 (21:45BST).

Randy de Puniet:

“A good first day for me in Qatar! I’m really happy because the feeling with the bike was good which is great for the last race weekend. I like this track and since the beginning I have felt confident with engine brake, traction control and the chassis – all were good but we have made little improvements with them all this evening. We had some small problems with tyre-life during the session but at the end I managed to do a good lap time. Now we need to work on the life of the rear tyre because this is really critical for Sunday and is our main point for tomorrow. I would like to stay in the top 10 and be in SP2 directly so I will try for a good lap time in FP3 tomorrow, but in the beginning we will work on the race distance.”

Alex Lowes:

“It was a difficult day today. We were struggling on a number of issues which has meant we haven’t been able to complete enough laps and therefore find a good rhythm. We have a lot to work to do tomorrow but as always we will put our heads down and start with a new direction from FP3.”

Losail – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice Combined Times: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 1.58.252: 2. Jordi Torres (Aprilia) +0.154: 3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.385: 4. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +0.404: 5. Michael van der Mark (Honda) +0.684. 8. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.918. 9. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.196.