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Flourishing Fourth for Guintoli in Final Friday at Qatar

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The lights of the Losail International Circuit illuminated a strong performance from the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK riders as the closing weekend of the 2016 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship commenced on Friday evening. Sylvain Guintoli finished the two hours of free practice fourth fastest in the overall times, with teammate Alex Lowes narrowly behind in sixth.

The Qatari circuit has long been a favourite of the French rider and this evening proved no exception. Instantly getting down to business as the opening session began, Guintoli regained a smooth rhythm with the circuit on his YZF-R1 as he worked through tyre options and preparation for the weekend’s two 17-lap races. Concluding the first hour on track in fifth position, and already inside the 1’59 mark, he continued his progression in the concluding 60-minutes to close the day just four-tenths from the provisional pole with a best lap of 1’58.167, and confident there is further potential on hand.

Lowes was equally optimistic with his Yamaha Superbike’s capacity, having taken fourth in the first practice by recording a 1’58.889 on his final lap after a strong session of set-up work. Returning to the Losail track in the late-evening, Lowes launched into a race simulation, successfully completing the long-run with consistent and confident pace before switching to new tyres for the final flourish. The British rider’s best effort of the night, a 1’58.241, sits him sixth in the combined times and joining his Pata Yamaha teammate in tomorrow’s Superpole 2, on track at 17:55 local time, as the grid for Saturday’s 20:00 race is decided.

Sylvain Guintoli
4th / 1’58.167 / 38 laps

“The YZF-R1 handles very well here so I’m feeling quite good after our first day. We’ve done some good laps on new tyres and hopefully we can keep a good rhythm over the race distance, have some fun and enjoy it as I really like this track! We’ve worked hard on all the tyre options today so we know the direction that works for us and hopefully we can have a fast race tomorrow. My fast lap was actually not that clean, I made two big mistakes so I know I have more but we’ve got to be competitive for the race so that has been our main target today.”

Alex Lowes
6th / 1’58.241 / 41 laps

“It’s really cool to ride at night under the lights, it’s something a little different for us so it’s always really nice, and the YZF-R1 is working well so today has been good. This afternoon I completed an almost full-race-distance simulation which I was quite happy with. With new tyres at the end I probably didn’t go quite as fast as I had wanted but I’m trying to concentrate on improving my pace for the races, as I need two good results for the final weekend. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, I think we did a good job today with plenty of laps so hopefully the lads can use the data, fine tune the bike a little to improve my feeling on corner entry and see if we can make a step for race one.”

Paul Denning – Team Principal

“A positive first night here in Qatar under the lights for both riders, it’s the last race of the season but it’s impressive to see that the focus from everyone involved is the same as the first race of the year. Sylvain came here knowing it was one of his favourite tracks and that he has the ability to win – having sealed the 2014 championship with a double victory – so it was no surprise to see him in a good rhythm and performing well from the start. He feels he could have been faster and also that there is some more performance to be found in the YZF-R1, so we’ll keep the focus for tomorrow and continue the progression from the positive performance in Jerez.

“Alex also had a very solid day, even more so having completed a 15-lap long-run in FP2. These race simulations are always so useful in terms of technical information but also in the rider understanding more clearly where the bike can be improved to get the best result after the lights go out for real. Tomorrow is when it counts – both in qualifying and the first race – but based on today we go into Saturday evening with optimism.”