Alex Lowes is beginning to feel more at home on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha as he builds towards his second MotoGP race on Sunday at Misano.
The Pata Yamaha World Superbike rider, drafted into the team for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and this weekend's round of the championship in San Marino as a replacement for injury victim Bradley Smith, was 15th fastest on Friday in free practice, 1.3 seconds behind pacesetter and team-mate Pol Espargaro.
Lowes, who finished 13th last weekend in front of his home fans on his premier class race bow, is continuing to adapt his riding style to the YZR-M1 and is beginning to make encouraging progress.
“I watched a little bit of the session back and in one week my style on the bike is a lot better, but I've still got a long way to go. I'm moving a bit too much but that's a trait I've picked up from riding Superbikes. I look a lot better on the bike and I feel a lot better in terms of my position, so I'm quite happy with how much I've improved in a short space and I've a better understanding of how to make the lap time,” he said.
“I think my best lap was something like lap 18, so I'm getting a bit quicker and learning a bit. The Yamaha suits this track really well and it's really good fun to ride. I didn't use a new tyre, so I used the same rear tyre for the whole session and I think before some of the guys fitted a new tyre I was around about one second off them. For my first day around here on the GP bike I'm quite happy,” Lowes added.
“The track's a bit shorter and in some ways it's more technical than Silverstone because it's slower and tighter, so it's a bit more difficult to get the feeling on the front.”
Making the transition from his World Superbike Yamaha R1 to the MotoGP bike and adapting to the Michelin tyres has been the biggest challenge for Lowes, but the British rider says he now has a better understanding of what it takes to make a fast lap time.
“Probably the biggest difference with a MotoGP bike is keeping your momentum more and you can be more aggressive on corner entry and even when the tyres are old you can get the bike into position a lot better, so you can make a lap time by doing a lot more laps and hitting the spots. On a Superbike you have to be a bit more aggressive and make the time on the tyres in the first couple of laps,” said Lowes, who is lapping around one second faster on the M1 at Misano than he managed on the YZF-R1 Superbike.
“With acceleration you've got lots of power and good electronics so that's one of the easier things to learn – getting into position and accelerating out of the corners. The bike is fantastic to ride and I really enjoy riding it.”
Lowes feels the new front tyre range introduced for Misano is a better match for his style and he hopes to complete a race simulation in FP4 on Saturday after managing a run of nine laps in Friday's afternoon stint.
“I used the harder front in the second session and for a couple of laps I was a bit nervous but then it actually had a couple of good points for my style and I felt a lot better. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and building on that because I've a bit more confidence now.
“I did nine laps in the middle of that session and with 45 minutes you can't really do much more than that, but I'll try to start the full session in FP4 and get a better understanding,” he said. “I feel a lot less tense on the bike and when I get my confidence up I feel I'll be able to manage the bike quite well on old tyres.”