Alex Lowes feels that he's at his best when blood is in the water and he's fighting at the front. Winning in WorldSBK appears to be just around the corner for the Englishman
Potential energy is the energy possessed by an object due to the factors surrounding it. For any motorcycle racer the biggest factor around them is their bike, and since moving to WorldSBK in 2014, Alex Lowes has been held back by the machinery at his disposal. Now, though, he's confident that a change in fortunes is just around the corner.
Last year the Englishman proved what he could achieve if the bike was improved, becoming a regular top five finisher and podium contender. The former British Superbikes champion has always had his share of believers within the paddock but he knows that the clock is ticking and now it's crucial to start getting results.
“I know that I need to start getting results and showing what I can do,” said Lowes. “I'm excited for the coming rounds and to be fighting at the front. The season has started pretty well but after changing crew chief and suspension engineer there was a bedding in period for us. The three points of contact in the garage are your crew chief and your suspension and electronics guys, and we had two of three changing. In Phillip Island, the first time we worked together in a race environment, it was a bit tough, but testing and Thailand went well.
“We had some upgrades for Thailand and it's been great to have more support from Yamaha Japan. It's been clear to me that they're taking the WorldSBK program seriously and are helping us. MotoGP is so competitive and it needs to be their focus but it's positive how seriously they want us to do well too. We had some extra engineers in Thailand that helped and over a race weekend it's so stressful for everyone that having those extra resources can help.”
In the Pitts
The biggest change for Lowes was arguably working with a new crew chief. As he said the switch of any one element of your garage can make or break every relationship. Everyone is dependent on one another, but working with Andrew Pitt could be the key which helps him unlock his potential. As a double World Supersport champion Pitt knows what it takes to win and what a rider is going through. He's also been able to build a reputation as an engineer in recent years.
“I didn't really know Andrew before the winter, other than knowing him as the rider, but the winter was great and the whole side of my garage is working well. Andrew brings something new to the table as well because he's a double world champion and knows what it's like to be in that position. I know that I can learn a lot from him from a sporting and technical side. Unlocking the next step on track is the key for both Lowes and the Yamaha but it's clear that significant steps have been made.
“I know that I'm fast enough to win races and consistent enough win the championship now. My speed has never been in doubt and it was always my best attribute. I was always fast when I jumped on any bike but that speed also caught me out at times in the past. I probably relied on my speed too much to get me to where I wanted to be but with so many great riders your talent and speed only gets you to a certain point. You need to learn what areas to focus on and to channel your work and that comes with experience. I work as hard as anyone and I think that my speed is as good as anyone else and I think with that combination I can beat anyone if we get into the right position.
“I've learned a lot of lessons the hard way and being able to understand the positives and negatives from each race is important. You need to learn from the negatives and enjoy the positives because life is short and you need to enjoy what you're doing. I can separate my racing life and my personal life so much better now. I do as well as I can on my bike and then come home to enjoy my time away from the track with my wife.
“I fully believe that my biggest attribute is fighting for a win in the last three laps. I've not forgotten how to win since BSB and if I'm in that position I know that I can do it. My race craft and ability on used tires is good and I know how to win when the opportunity presents itself. In WorldSBK it's about working hard on Friday and getting everything to work correctly so that in the races you can fight with Johnny and Tom, Chaz and Marco in those closing laps.”
The support team around Lowes extends far beyond what we see on the engineering side and it's clear the importance that he places in the people around him. Keeping calm and collected was a problem in the past for Lowes where his frustration was clear to see for all around now he does a much better job of controlling his emotions and focusing on the job at hand. Having a former Commonwealth boxing champion as his corner man certainly helps.
“It's been really good having Dave “Rocky” Ryan with me. He's so useful to me and the biggest reason is that does such a great job of keeping calm. In boxing, it's not about the punches, it's about dealing with pressure and keeping a clear head. To have someone punch you in the face and not panic takes so much control, and Rocky knows that in boxing if you lose the cool you lose the fight. He understands me very well from training together and he helps me to stop worrying about other people. If I'm having a bad weekend he does a great job of making me focus on what we're doing rather than looking at what Michael is doing or what other people on the timesheet are doing. He manages to persuade me to focus on what I'm doing and he probably doesn't even know that he's doing it because he's so calm and that's why he's so important to me.”
Keeping calm and rolling with the punches is part and parcel of a life in racing and Lowes knows that he's had to take a few licks in the past. He feels it's now time to get the counter punches in and land the big blows. The momentum that has been building within Yamaha over the last year should see him fighting for the elusive first WorldSBK victory very soon.
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