Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes stormed to the fastest overall time in the World Superbike Championship’s inaugural practice at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand today.
Meaning business from the start, Lowes got his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R up-to-speed quickly at the new Buriram track. Claiming second with his initial laps, a technical delay to his exploratory opening practice did little to dampen his speed. Returning to the track with 35 minutes remaining of the extended 75-minute session, the British racer’s times continued to improve as his familiarity grew, concluding the morning in fifth.
A similarly quick start to his afternoon saw Lowes improve again with his second and third timed-laps, sitting in fourth for the majority of the session as he continued his development. Three consecutive fast laps aboard his Suzuki machine with five minutes of the day’s track action remaining, ensured he clinched the fastest overall time to claim WSBK’s debut provisional pole at the new circuit.
Randy de Puniet’s introduction to the Thai track wasn’t quite as smooth, with engine-brake complications interrupting his study of the unknown layout. As track temperatures rose steadily to 57°C the Frenchman continued his investigation, completing 37 laps as he expanded his knowledge of the GSX-R1000 and the Buriram circuit to finish the day in 13th with a 1’36.263.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s final timed-for-qualifying practice will take place at 09:45hrs local time (02:45GMT) tomorrow morning ahead of the afternoon’s grid-deciding Superpole at 15:00hrs (08:00GMT).
“Today has been good! It’s always nice to come to a new track, to learn the layout and try to understand the challenges of each corner. I really like the mid-section – you have to be quite physical on the bike which suits my style quite a bit. It’s been a good day, we’ve worked hard and I’ve done a lot of laps, completing two 10-lap runs in the last session, but it’s only Friday and the times are going to get a lot quicker so we’ll see what happens. The heat is obviously hard for everyone, and it’s going to be tough on the tires but I’m enjoying it! I enjoyed it in Australia even though we didn’t get the results we deserved and I’m enjoying it again here. Thanks to the lads for working really hard, I’ll keep trying and see if I can get some good results on Sunday.”
“I’m not that happy with the first day here as I struggled quite a bit. This morning we had an issue with the brake feeling so it was difficult to stop the bike, we fixed this but I had another issue with the setting this afternoon so it was difficult for me to be consistent with my laps, which is why the position is not as good. If we fix these two problems it will be much, much better but for now it is difficult for me to learn the new track and understand the GSX-R. Tomorrow I hope to fix the issues and concentrate on my riding style and improve the overall performance ready for the races.”
“I think everybody in the World Superbike Championship is impressed with the Chang International Circuit and the facilities that the Thai organizers have provided. They can’t control the weather, which is incredibly hot, but everything else is very easy to work with – very friendly people, organizers and hopefully a big crowd on Sunday. We have had a reasonably tough start to the weekend in general but Alex‘s reaction to the problems we had this morning, keeping calm and working through the issues step-by-step, paid dividends this afternoon with a very strong and very consistent performance. We clearly had lots of potential in Phillip Island and weren’t able to capitalize so it’s great to see Alex and the GSX-R very much on the pace at a more stop-go circuit.
“Randy hasn’t gelled with the new track quite as well, in particular some engine-brake setting and actual braking-power problems have made it difficult to be consistent and to be as confident as you need to be here, slowing the bike from very high speeds. Luckily the gap to the top-six is not huge and if we can resolve those issues this evening we expect to be able to help Randy to go a lot better tomorrow.”