Voltcom Crescent Suzuki began its WSBK test at Phillip Island in dramatic style with Alex Lowes topping the times and team mate Randy de Puniet suffering a huge crash after setting the early pace.
A steady start to Monday’s proceedings saw Lowes conclude the morning session in ninth place before working through a number of test settings as the afternoon progressed. As track temperatures rose from 29 to 37°C between sessions, the British racer put his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R safely into the 1.31 bracket before a 1’31.332 with just minutes to go, claimed the day’s top spot by more than three tenths of a second.
De Puniet had held the fastest time for much of the morning – with a 1’32.402 set on his seventh lap – but with minutes to go, a massive high-side at turn 11 brought out the red flags and a premature end to the Frenchman’s day. X-rays revealed no breaks, but severe bruising and swelling resulted in his withdrawal from the afternoon’s test.
Lowes admitted he was surpassed to top the time sheets. He said: “It’s been a difficult day and I’m quite surprised to be fastest. We’ve had some issues to work through but the guys have worked really hard and done a fantastic job. We’re approaching this year differently to last, as I almost ruined my season before the first race last year by crashing, but this year I’m determined not to do the same again – obviously mistakes can happen but we’re working well. We’ve got some good information and feedback from today and I didn’t get frustrated when we had problems early on; I kept calm and went quite fast at the end. We’ve got a lot of work still to do – someone asked my expectations for Sunday, but I’m just looking forward to tomorrow morning, doing my best and then we’ll see what happens for the race weekend.We might be one of the smaller factory set-ups but we are very strong and I think we are going to do a good job.”
A battered and bruised de Puniet was pleased he had escaped his off unharmed. He said: “The test started well today and I was in first position for most of this morning. My feeling with the bike was very good, we did some slight adjustments and I was confident working with new tyres to get a good feeling for the race. Five minutes before the end of the session I was P4 and I went out on fresh tyres with the plan to improve my lap-time, as my best was from my eighth lap on the tyre. On my second timed-lap I had a massive high-side at turn 11, I flew very high and came down hard on my back, with a lot of pain, it doesn’t look like anything is broken but it is very swollen so I decided not to ride this afternoon as it was impossible and we will see how it feels tomorrow morning. I hope to make some laps in the morning and if not, I will try again in the afternoon. I’m disappointed because it was a good start, but the most important thing is nothing is broken and I need to be ready for Friday and especially for Sunday. The bike is good so I think we can be confident and I hope I can be in the best condition for the race weekend.”
The Voltcom Crescent Suzuki returns to testing action tomorrow for a further two, two-hour sessions at the Victoria circuit.