Alex Lowes yesterday took his first steps in works Kawasaki WorldSBK world at a wet then dry Motorland Aragon circuit, alongside some of his peers.
It was both a difficult and a positive experience for the English rider, who lost a factory Yamaha ride only to find himself inside one half of a team that has almost dominated WorldSBK for some time.
“Obviously the day was shortened by the weather and the morning was not that nice, cold and wet,” Lowes told bikesportnews.com after setting relatively few laps on day one.
“In the afternoon we had about three and a half hours. We lost some track time and I think I made less than 30 lap times. Everything is so new to me but first impressions are nice and there’s lots of parts of the bike that I really like.
I feel like I just need to take my time to understand it. I am quite careful because in the past when I jumped on the Yamaha straight away, the first day I felt like I had to prove something and every time I crashed and you end up worse off. So with this one I’m really trying to wait and understand the bike, but for the laps I did, I feel I was quite good, because I did not do so many.”
His first impressions of how the Kawasaki and Yamaha differ were clear enough.
“With this bike the exit of the corner is working a lot better than what I’ve had in the past and that obviously requires you to ride the bike in a different way. The Yamaha was easy to get the feeling on the front and with this bike the character is quite a lot different.
“Honestly, I feel that I’ve not done any laps. I did 18 laps in one practice session and today so I’m still trying to find my handlebar positions and stuff like that. So you cannot understand more technical things about the bike. I need to push it a bit more and really understand what is happening. But for a first impression, I am really impressed.”
Lowes was asked if he immediately felt what some people believe, that the Kawasaki is a super-special bike. There is more to it than that…
“You can’t take away the team side, the rider side. No bike rides itself. In a car sometimes people can change cars and they can make big steps. It is never going to be like that in bike racing.
“If people think it is completely like that then they do not understand everything. But for the laps I did, if you take the first feeling that within three laps I already felt better than I have had before, so this is obviously positive.
Preparations in the KRT Set-up are wide-ranging and exhaustive, with the riders often undergoing medical checks – just as Lowes did shortly before heading to Motorland.
“The team are really good, and calm. There is no pressure on me and they want me to learn step-by-step and it is a long time for Phillip Island. I am really happy. For me it is a bit strange because I have been working with the same guys for so long it was nice today that there wasn’t lots and lots of laps, and we had time to understand how the mechanics work, they can understand my feeling and just remembering everyone’s name in this team. There are a lot of people. I am really happy with how it has started.”
Lowes’ crew chief will be the long-time Kawasaki employee Marcel Duinker, not Andrew Pitt as it was with Yamaha. So how has it been so far with Marcel, and how is the way of working different?
“Good, really good. Marcel’s English is fantastic, which is obviously the first thing, but also he’s clever and he’s got a lot of experience so I’m sure he’ll help me a lot to improve with my riding.
“Nothing completely different to what Andrew was doing last year, if I am honest, but we did not change anything today. I am sure that the debriefs and the questions are going to be a little bit different but today we did not get to that stage, we are just trying to move the brake position and stuff like that. Honestly, with guys I have not made a technical comment on the bike yet.”
In a season that will have several rider-reshuffles there is one rider who is set to shake things up – long-time MotoGP rider and 2019 BSB Champion, Scott Redding.
On his factory Ducati, and with a test at Valencia under his belt already, Redding was second fastest on day one in Aragon. No surprise to Lowes.
“I expected it 100 per cent,” he said. “On a factory Ducati that won so many races last year and he has been in MotoGP. He did one year in BSB, and he did all the year on the bike. He knows all the tracks and he did one test in Valencia already.
“For me he should be there, has to be there with a factory bike. He has so much experience from MotoGP, you cannot forget this, so I expect him to be really strong.”