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Leading morning for Lowes at Laguna Seca

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Alex Lowes started his American adventure in the best way possible this morning, by leading the opening WorldSBK free practice times at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before completing Friday in fifth position overall. Teammate Niccolò Canepa also impressed as he began his second outing on the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK YZF-R1, finishing inside the top ten and joining Lowes with direct qualification into tomorrow’s Superpole 2.

Lowes began the morning with a quick exploration lap before returning to the pits for set-up work. Instantly hitting the top five on his return to the track, the British rider continued his evaluation and progression. Setting a top-three time at the half way stage with a 1’24.9, he swiftly followed it by claiming second with a 1’24.693 on the next lap. A red flag situation with just three minutes to go brought a delay to the session’s close but with the green light returning, Lowes made the most of the sprint finish. His fastest lap of the day, a 1’23.912, saw him lead the times for the morning session and allowed him to retain his top-five position at the close of play – despite a crash 20 minutes into the afternoon calling time early on his free practice action.

Getting up to speed quickly at the Californian circuit, Canepa sat fourth in the times after the morning’s opening laps, consistently improving his times and sitting within the top-ten as the session developed. Returning to the track for the remaining eight minutes, having concentrated on setting’s evaluations with his Pata Yamaha crew, the Italian rider was on for a top-five lap time before the session was red flagged. Regrouping for the closing moments, he set a 1’24.814 on his final revolution to end the session seventh and eager to continue into the afternoon. Working through chassis adjustments to allow greater rear grip and front feel, Canepa concluded the final hour-long free practice in tenth, improving his time to 1’24.310.

The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team returns to the Laguna Seca track tomorrow morning for a final 15 minute free practice at 09:15 local time. Qualifying begins for both Lowes and Canepa at 11:55 with Saturday’s second Superpole shootout, ahead of the weekend’s first 25-lap race at 14:30.

Alex Lowes
5th / 1’23.912 / 32 laps

“This afternoon was disappointing as I had a small crash that ultimately resulted in missing the whole session. It’s frustrating because we had a good first session, we started well, the YZF-R1 was fast and it would have been great to continue the momentum and make the most of it in FP2. I feel good, I really enjoy this track and the bike is working well. I haven’t had the chance to do any long runs, so we have some work to do to allow it to challenge over 25 laps but hopefully we will be able to keep working, both myself and the team, and have a good result tomorrow.”

Niccolò Canepa
10th / 1’24.310 / 52 laps

“We made a lot of changes to the YZF-R1 today, some were good, some not, so we lost some time in the morning with those but at the end we found a good setting and a top ten position is important. It was very important for me to finish inside the top ten for the qualification to Superpole 2 tomorrow, so I’m quite satisfied, but we still have some work to do. Now we have the whole afternoon to study the data and work on the correct setting on the bike, as I’m struggling a little more than in Misano, but I’m quite confident because we already know which areas we need to concentrate on. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, my target was to start better than in Misano where I was in P15 so I’ve already managed that and for sure we can continue to improve further.”

Paul Denning – Team Principal

“The teams and riders all enjoy being at Laguna Seca, the enthusiasm of the fans and the unique nature of the racetrack always combine to create a great event. 13 riders are covered by 0.8 of a second, so the competition is fierce as well.

“We need to find a slightly better balance in the YZF-R1 for both riders and make up for Alex’s lost track time tomorrow. The pace is there, and I am sure we can challenge the front runners in both qualifying and race one.”