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Strong 5th for Lowes & Voltcom Crescent Suzuki

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Team Suzuki Press Office – October 2.

The opening day of action at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours concluded with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes comfortably fifth in the combined times after two successful set-up sessions.

Less than 0.4-of-a-second separated fifth from second position at the close of play this afternoon, with Lowes’ best lap – a 1’38.390 – set on his second fast-lap on new tyres. The British racer remains pleased with the progress made throughout the two 45-minute sessions, despite not hitting the planned number of laps on his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R due to a gear-shifting sensor issue mid-way through the afternoon practice. Saturday’s morning session will see him concentrate on a longer run to cement the current feeling but Lowes is confident the set-up work completed today is heading firmly in the right direction.

Randy de Puniet worked hard both on and off the track today as his visit to his home race saw him coveted for interviews, autographs and two appointments with the World Championship’s Paddock Show alongside his racing commitments. Concentrating on learning the layout while continuing to improve the feel with his Suzuki GSX-R1000, the Frenchman concluded his first day in 16th with a 1’39.701 and agility and brake feeling his target for tomorrow.

Kawasaki’s newly-crowned World Champion Jonathan Rea continued his reign at the top of the times, setting the pace with a 1’37.750 as the autumnal sunshine warmed the French track to 27°C by late afternoon.

Lowes and de Puniet return to Magny-Cours as Saturday’s action begins with the final timed-for-qualifying session at 09:45hrs local time (08:45BST), the 30-minute free practice following at 12:30hrs (11:30BST). Superpole commences at 15:00hrs (14:00BST) with the top-12 shootout on track at 15:25hrs (14:25BST).

Alex Lowes:

“We had a decent start today, the bike feels quite good and I’m enjoying the track and looking forward to tomorrow. I think we have decent pace, but there is plenty still to work on overnight. The lads did a great job between session one and two – working on stopping the bike and getting through the faster chicanes – so if we can take another step tomorrow we shouldn’t be too far away. We didn’t get as many laps in as we had wanted today – due to a few minor issues – so hopefully we can get more down tomorrow, build-up the consistency and start understanding it a little bit more over the longer race distance.”

Randy de Puniet:

“I’m not that happy about the first day, ok it is the first time I have ridden here for many years, but the feeling with the bike is like Jerez not like Malaysia and Laguna as I would like. We have tried some adjustments which improved during the morning session, but this afternoon we tried something different again which did not work for me. The rhythm is not good enough so we need to find something for tomorrow morning because we need one second to be inside the top-10. I hope we can take half a step with the bike and I will find the last half to be able to fight at this point.
“I also have a new helmet design for my home race which I really like, with a small symbol to the French people and to commemorate the French round.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“It’s been a very solid first day for Alex’s side of the garage here in Magny-Cours. The GSX-R is working well at this track and the fact that Alex has the experience of last year means we were able to hit the ground running this morning. We didn’t have the best FP2 and made fewer laps than Alex or the team would have wanted due to a gearbox shifting issue, but taking this into account the lap-time was still very good and the pace was very consistent.

“The start of the weekend for Randy’s home race hasn’t gone quite as well – no fundamental problems, the new Nissin brake system is working well and the bike clearly has reasonable potential – but Randy hasn’t seen the track for 17 years and hasn’t quite found the sweet spot of either bike setting or his own rhythm to be as far up the order as he would like. Let’s hope we can keep working hard and improve tomorrow.”

Magny-Cours – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice Combined Times: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 1’37.750: 2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +0.294: 3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.323: 4. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +0.580: 5. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.640. 16. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.951.