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Flying Fifth for Lowes in Laguna Race One

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Round nine of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship truly got underway with a thrilling battle this afternoon as the Californian sun shone down on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Alex Lowes took his Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK to a fantastic fifth place in the first race on American soil with Niccolò Canepa scoring his third consecutive top-10 finish aboard the WorldSBK-spec YZF-R1.

A stunning start by Lowes saw him jump four positions in the opening lap as race one unfolded, holding sixth as he crossed the line after the first 3,610 meter dash. Maintaining his position for the initial laps the British rider joined the top-five on the fifth revolution, his sights set firmly on the podium. Picking up pace on his YZF-R1 as the mid-race distance approached, Lowes dug deep, repeatedly attempting a move on the third placed rider but failing to complete the pass successfully. The promise of a podium was not to be but with just a second separating him from third, Lowes met the flag in fifth position, collecting a further 11 points to retain his 10th place in the championship standings.

Commencing this afternoon’s race from the third row of the grid, Canepa initially held his ninth position strongly. Losing out on the second lap, the Italian was briefly demoted to 12th before immediately increasing his pace and hunting down the riders in front. Refusing to be beaten, Canepa pushed hard on his Pata Yamaha, regaining his grip on the top-10 by mid-race and maintaining position for the remainder of the 25-lap contest.

The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team returns to Laguna Seca at 11:00 local time for Sunday’s warm-up session ahead of Lowes and Canepa’s final contest before the long summer break, on track at 14:30.

Alex Lowes
Race: 5th / +13.335 / 25 laps. Championship: 10th / 92 points

“It was a good solid race this afternoon, obviously there was a bit of pressure on after a disappointing qualifying from 10th, so overall I’m happy to be fifth. I felt like, with 10-15 laps to go, we could challenge for the podium but unfortunately I was struggling to pass and just couldn’t find the right place. I had a couple of attempts but unfortunately I just didn’t have the pace in the areas I needed to get the pass done. In the end it felt quite frustrating but really it was a solid race and we’re quite happy. I’m hoping if we can make a few changes to the bike to give me a bit more confidence in the areas that I need to get past people a bit easier, then I can really look forward to tomorrow.”

Niccolò Canepa
Race: 10th / +22.832 / 25 laps. Championship: 19th / 22 points

“It has been a very difficult race as we’ve been struggling all weekend to find the right set-up. We made some more changes for the race but they were maybe not so good, and we chose a different tyre to everybody else which was a little bit risky but I had nothing to lose so we tried to go for it. I think we have to rethink the changes and go back to an earlier set-up because the Superpole was better and choose the other tyre option for tomorrow. Anyway it was not so bad, we are still in the top ten, but I know the potential of the bike, the team and my own potential. I know that we can be faster here so we will keep working and I am confident that we will make an even better race for tomorrow.”

Paul Denning – Team Principal

“It’s been a challenging Saturday here at Laguna but both riders and team have made huge efforts to grind out the best possible results. The YZF-R1 has been incredible in qualifying trim all year so it was disappointing that we weren’t able to take advantage of the extra grip, resulting in ninth and tenth starting positions. Alex especially did an incredible job on the first lap to get up to sixth and fight for the podium from there onwards. Ultimately it’s a little disappointing to miss the first podium of the year by only a second but Alex struggled to pass Nicky who has more experience here than probably any other rider. Our focus for tomorrow will be to try and achieve more capability in the bike to allow Alex to make passes because he strongly believes that his pace over a clear lap could have seen him draw away and finish on the podium. Nonetheless it was a great effort and we will try and do more tomorrow.

“Niccolò rode a very consistent race, he’s disappointed with his 10th position result but coming in as a replacement rider to this championship is really not easy and there are some elements of the bike’s performance that we will work on to help his overall pace and consistency further tomorrow.”

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