‘We need to find the piece so we can consistently push Jonathan’- Lowes| Gordon Ritchie | WorldSBK
Kawasaki WorldSBK star Alex Lowes has proven he has the pace for podiums this season but is just looking for the final piece of the jigsaw that will enable him to consistently hassle team-mate and reigning champion Jonathan Rea.
Of his year so far, nine races over three rounds in Spain, Portugal and now Italy, Lowes was definitely expecting more than he has so far netted but knows what is required to make it happen.
“I don’t expect to be finishing fifth and sixth,” Lowes told bikesportnews.com. “I want to be doing better, because I have some podiums. I expected to do better. How I felt in winter testing, how I felt in Aragon, how I felt in Estoril until the qualifying, I expected to be doing a bit better. But you know it is not easy.
The level of World Superbikes is going up. I think that there’s lots of good riders on good bikes now. Kawasaki is a great bike, but we don’t see the differences we saw maybe even five, six years ago.
“So, I expect this year to be doing better - challenging for the podium, closer to Johnny. But in hot, extreme races like this it was tough for him, I think. We saw he nearly crashed yesterday. If he’s not winning, it means it’s not easy. So, from this side of it, I think I’m doing a really good job.
“It’s quite tough actually, if I’m honest, because you’re judged on the bike being the best bike in the paddock and Johnny being the best rider. But then on the other side, is this the reality? I don’t know anymore if the package every weekend is the best, personally. I obviously have experience of riding a different bike in the past and know the level of different bikes.
‘You’re judged just on this. You’re expected to be at the front. But I think I’m doing a good job. I think I’m fast in every session, I’m fast in all conditions, I’m not making many mistakes. We just need to find this piece so we can consistently push Johnny a little bit more. But in terms of ‘am I happy to be fifth or sixth?’ No, of course not.”
It seems like the places where both Rea and Lowes would normally expect finish were two places lower than their best expectations - like somebody had moved the Kawasaki results graph down tow places over the weekend.
“To be honest, it’s even harder for Johnny,” said Lowes. “If he doesn’t win, everybody is asking him why he didn’t win. You know what? Toprak, Scott, Michael, Garrett, Van Der Mark, Bautista, Tom… They’re good riders, fantastic riders. I’ve been on lots of different competitive bikes, not competitive bikes, some weekends you’re really fast…
‘The reality is that there’s lots of good riders riding well with some advantages on different tracks. That’s why this weekend was a bit slower. That’s just the facts of the situation. Johnny rode better than me in the hot conditions. He gets more from the bike. The bike doesn’t turn as well. In the way he lifts the bike up, I lose more than him.
‘It’s something I need to improve. But this weekend for us was tougher, let’s say, than the previous two so I’m happy with how I managed it. But I’m not happy obviously to be sixth.”
Lowes only sees that overall competitiveness going up when the so-far disappointing BMW and Honda season really pick up. “You see some races Honda is getting there, and then BMW are battling with us one race and then the next race, they’re not there. For me, the reason is quite simple. You arrive in Misano. Free Practice One is cool. Free Practice two is hot.
You have one session. The next day you have to race. If you have a newer package, how you can be prepared to race with guys who have been there every year? I know from Yamaha people thought I didn’t do too good a job, but actually every year was like this because the bike was improving and everything was improving. If you arrive the next year with the same bike on the same track, you can make a step forward.”
Lowes agreed that limited testing does not help anybody get competitive or stay competitive anymore, although he acknowledges that racing or testing at all in these strange times is inherently a true achievement from all involved. But it does not help the BMW or Honda riders much ion the current reality.
“Last year was great, but we didn’t do all the tracks,” said Lowes. “So, for example, Honda or BMW, the teams with less experience, they don’t have as much experience at Misano in 55 degrees. It’s a completely different game in a winter test with 30 degrees. You really cannot compare with the tyres. So, this is why they seem far behind but maybe next race they will be at the front again. So for me, this is the explanation.”
And the times are strange, of course. ‘Yeah, it’s worse this year because it’s like two years behind because last year a lot of people didn’t ride at all the tracks,” aid Lowes. “Normally at least at the race we can check from last year. It’s tough to arrive, even for me. It’s my second year on the bike, but it’s tough to arrive directly in the first sessions and be the same as Johnny and then race the next day.
‘So the guys that are arriving at the track the first time with this bike, it’s easy for the two races on both days on the weekend that you have only Friday to test in a relaxed way. So this is tough. I guess there’s always going to be people that it works for and it works against. It’s difficult to manage.”