Kawasaki’s Alex Lowes was just 0.007 seconds away from a WorldSBK win first time out on a Ninja ZX-10RR but the all-action race one almost had another real surprise up its many sleeves.
Lowes, unhappy and lacking dry test time in the winter, was only eighth in Superpole, but man and machine came home within a paddock stand width of even greater glory than his final second place.
“My first race on a green machine and I had been a little bit slow at the beginning of the week in the tests, struggling to feel really comfortable,” Lowes told bikesportnews.com.
“But every day and every session has got better and I have been calm and patient. That was the story of that race. I felt I had a little bit more tyre at the end than the other guys to race them but what a fantastic race to be part of.
“I hope all the fans enjoyed it. I had a smile on my face the whole way and hopefully tomorrow there are two races just as close and we can keep it going. Really enjoyed it, great racing, and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Qualifying eighth in Superpole Lowes went up from row three to within 0.007 seconds of a maiden Kawasaki race win, simply because of his strong race pace. “All week I said my race pace was not bad and the only problem was when I used a qualifying tyre. I have no experience with it and I had so much grip I could not use it.
“For the next race I have to improve this. But, the race pace was like I expected, right to the end. Actually, at the end my tyre… I had more grip than the other guys. I had a plan on the last lap but Scott passed me and I was like ‘Oh, no,’ because I knew I could challenge the Yamaha guys. I was a bit aggressive and tried to pass Scott back and still nearly won.
I think without Scott passing me there would have been a chance to win. But anyway, I am really happy with how the race was and I managed the situation well. I stayed calm in the battle and it was a pretty good race – and a good start.”
His old mate and constant rival Leon Haslam had a real fight with Lowes, just behind the leading bunch at the start and at other times, but when it came to it, Lowes could move forward after all the earlier tactile overtakes.
“When Leon past me he was a bit slower than me so he started to lose ground,” said Lowes. “He passed me on the straight because the Honda was quite fast. I felt like my bike was strong in the straight but the Honda top end was really fast.
“When he passed me into turn one I did not expect it, it was quite late, so my front tyre hit his rear tyre and locked together a bit - so it was like a scary moment. I lost a bit of time with that but I managed to regroup quite well. I did the same with Loris Baz and I have to apologise to him.
“His bike was not so fast in the straight and I was going a lot faster. When I arrived on the inside he did not expect it. We hit a little bit. Apologies to him for that and what a good, fun race.
“Close racing, good battles, and it was so much fun. Everybody is going to be a little annoyed with him or him, and you always felt you could have done better. I want to stay calm and enjoy tomorrow’s race, improve the bike a bit and be even stronger. I think if Johnny was there he would have tried to push the gap a little bit more.”