Alex Lowes

Endurance racing – Yamaha Factory Racing Team writes history with third consecutive Suzuka victory

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The Yamaha Factory Racing Team wrote an incredible page in the endurance racing history after taking their third consecutive win at the 2017 Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours.

It was a double celebration for the manufacturer as the The GMT94 Yamaha Official EWC Team secured the 2016-2017 FIM Endurance World Championship title after a strategic race performance.

The race itself saw lead rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga initially swallowed by the lead pack into Turn One as the race got underway, but the experienced test rider quickly began fighting his way back to the front to sit just behind the #634 bike going into the second lap. Never more than 0.1 or 0.2 seconds behind, the hunt ran on until Lap 16 when the local hero took the lead briefly before hitting heavy traffic with backmarkers and some light rain on parts of the track.The first hour was soon up and Nakasuga returned to the pits to hand the YZF-R1 over to teammate Alex Lowes.

The British rider was quick to get up to pace and was soon leading a highly competitive pack by a little over a second. Hard work saw that build to nearly four seconds before it was time to hand over to the team’s third rider, Michael van der Mark. The Dutchman put his head down and was working hard to maintain the lead built by Lowes when disaster struck for the chasing #634 bike, giving the Yamaha Factory Racing Team a big time gap at the front.

From then on, the trio were never troubled by the competition, keeping up their dominant weekend-long pace and building up to a lap clear of the rest of the pack by the end of the race. Lowes took the honour of the last hour’s ride, slightly calmer than his previous stint that saw him break the race record not once, but twice. First smashing the standing 2:07.943 with a 2:07.402, then later delivering an unbelievable 2:06.932 lap.The factory YZF-R1 crossed the line in first to the delight of the thousands of Japanese race fans present, writing a historic page in the endurance racing book with the second ever consecutive triple race win by one team in the history of the race. Nakasuga added to the honours by becoming the first Japanese rider to ever win the Suzuka 8 Hours three times in a row.

Alex Lowes said: “I’m really happy to win the Suzuka 8 Hours again, it’s a fantastic event. I was a little bit nervous in the last hour; because these two guys did a fantastic job, we had a little bit of a lead which makes you a little bit more nervous because it’s easy to lose your concentration. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team did a fantastic job, I really enjoyed the bike, I enjoyed the experience again and I’m looking forward to coming back next year to do it again!”

The GMT94 Official EWC Team started the eight-hour race from 15th on the grid with Niccolò Canepa lining up for the Le Mans dash to the #94 YZF-R1. The Italian started climbing through the order just 30 minutes into the race despite the less-than-ideal conditions with intermittent rain falling in sections of Suzuka Circuit’s west course.

The Italian then came in for the first pit stop, passing the bike to his veteran teammate David Checa, who kept up the pace set in the first hour.As the hours wound down, the French team were able to reel off consistent laps in the 2’10s as they focused not on winning the race, but on controlling the point difference to their championship title rivals.Third team rider Mike Di Meglio made a strong impression on his Suzuka debut in the Endurance World Championship, bringing the team as high as eighth before a 30-second stop-and-go penalty relegated them back to 11th.

This was still well ahead of their main title rivals, however, and the team carried on with their strategy and focused on maintaining their pace. As evening fell on the track, Checa went out for the final stint, coming in for a brief pit stop before taking the checkered flag and clinching the Endurance World Championship title, the third one to the team’s name.

MotoGP test – Lowes impressed by M1 on MotoGP debut

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Pata Yamaha WSBK rider Alex Lowes got the chance to ride a MotoGP bike yesterday as reward for winning the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race.

Lowes joined Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider and fellow Suzuka team-mate Pol Espargaró at Brno to experience the YZR-M1 during the official one-day IRTA test.

The Lincolnshire lad had to wait until the last hour of the day before he could sweep his leg over the bike, but he soon got a feel for the power of the M1 and improved his first hot lap by over a second when he set a fastest time of 1’59.558s.

Clocking the twelfth fastest time and managing a 1.146s improvement in just fifteen laps, the test unfortunately ended a prematurely when Lowes suffered a small front end crash at the end of the session.

Lowes said: “Obviously this was one of the best days of my life! From when you’re a kid you dream about an opportunity to ride a MotoGP bike and it was fantastic. Obviously I didn’t do too many laps, but the feel of the bike was incredible. The power of the bike and the way that it turns was everything that I expected and even more than that, so it was an incredible experience.

“The brakes and the tyres are quite a lot different from a WSBK bike, but the biggest difference is the power. When I came from my first lap onto the straight I felt the engine’s full power and it was amazing, I couldn’t believe how fast it was, so I would say the biggest difference is the power.

“The crash was on my last couple of laps, nearly at the end of the day and obviously the reason was because I tried to push a bit too much without understanding everything. I braked a bit more and lifted the rear a bit, went a little wide and the track was a bit dirty and I lost he front. It was only a small crash but I’m feeling really sorry for that.

“Honestly, it was a fantastic experience and I really enjoyed it, even if I did only 15 laps, they were the best 15 laps I ever had. I have no experience of anything like this before and the way you go from one side to the other, it’s like you are on a bicycle, it is really easy. So many things felt a lot better for me but were also difficult to understand in the limited time available, but it’s been great.”

WSBK – Factory squad unveils 2016 bike

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Yamaha is returning to  World Superbikes with a full factory effort run by Crescent Racing.

The new team will be fighting for honours from the off, with former world champion Sylvain Guintoli and former BSB champion Alex Lowes piloting the new YZF-R1, a bike which is getting better and better after taking both the Superbike and Superstock 1000 classes in the MotoAmerica racing series, as well as the  BSB title.

The outfit will be backed by title sponsor Pata, which has switched from the Ten Kate Honda squad.

 

WSBK – Yamaha Factory teams returns to fight for honours. Lowes and Guintoli to spearhead title assualt

Yamaha has announced it is officially returning to WSBK in 2016 in collaboration with highly experienced partner Crescent Racing and title sponsors PATA. The team will place the new YZF-R1 in the talented hands of 2014 World Superbike Champion Sylvain Guintoli and 2013 British Superbike Champion Alex Lowes.

The prospect of Guintoli and Lowes promises to be a tantalising one, blending experience and exuberance.

Frenchman Guintoli has over 15 years experience in racing, with 45 podiums, 10 race wins and the 2014 WSBK title to his credit, in classes spanning 250cc, MotoGP, BSB and WSB. Lowes is no rookie himself, and has taken 20 podiums, eight wins and six pole positions on his way to his 2013 BSB title. He has also competed with Crescent for the last two seasons so is no stranger to the team or the WSBK series.

The news sees Yamaha make a welcome return to the series, and the manufacturer has an impressive history in the championship – 2009 saw Yamaha take their first World Superbike Championship title, breaking multiple records throughout the season with American rider Ben Spies on board. Iconic riders such as Noriyuki Haga, Troy Corser, James Toseland, Marco Melandri and Cal Crutchlow, among others, have all taken their turns delivering countless victories on the YZF-R1 throughout Yamaha’s Superbike career.

Crescent will partner Yamaha as their fully-supported Official WSBK Team from 2016. Crescent is the World Superbike Championship’s only UK-based team and has a 20-year racing history at both national and global level that features victories in the British Superbike Championship, World Superbike and MotoGP.

Yamaha Motor Europe will retain responsibility over racing strategy and technical development, as well as the rider agreements with Crescent’s hugely experienced, dedicated, technical and engineering racing personnel running the team’s operation at each of the Championship rounds.

Yamaha Motor Europe Chief Operating Officer, Eric De Seynes, said: “Having re-written the Supersport rule book and changed the game with the new YZF-R1, directly developed from Yamaha MotoGP technology, it was clear we would need to return to the World Superbike Championship to show the full potential of our new Superbike machine. We took one year to grow experience with the new R1 in many other championships where the bike has shown its potential already, with the amazing 8H of Suzuka victory and the very positive results that our official Teams are gathering all around Europe. Now we are ready to be back on the world stage and I am happy we have found in Crescent the same values of professionalism, engineering detail and passion for victory we share.”

WSBK – Brit pack dominates testing at Phillip Island

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Alex Lowes continued his impressive testing form after topping the timesheets again during the final day’s test at Phillip Island.

Lowes posted a time 1min 30.859secs on the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000, which was enough to thwart a late charge by Kawasaki’s Jonny Rea, who finished the day in second place.

Rea covered more ground than any other rider over the two-day test, completing 139 laps as he continues to adjust to the ZX-10R after years of riding Honda machinery.

Moto2 exile Jordi Torres continued his impressive transition to WSBK by piloting his Red Devils Roma Aprilia RSV4 RF into third place, and fastest through the speed trap at a blistering 310.3kph, slightly ahead of last year’s runner-up Tom Sykes who finished in fourth place and team-mate Leon Haslam on the second RedDevils Aprilia who finished the day in fifth position.

Davide Giugliano sat out the action after cracking two vertebrae after a heavy fall in Day One while Randy de Puniet only managed 14 laps and is in hospital having a scan to see whether Monday’s brutal crash at Turn 11 has left him with any lasting damage to his lower back.

WSBK – Suzuki catches the eye at PI

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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.