From deflation to mild elation in just under a fortnight, Sam Lowes cut a different figure on Friday at Le Mans after an electronics upgrade and a good feeling with Aprilia's RS-GP in wet conditions pushed him into the MotoGP top ten in FP2.

Lowes couldn't hide his pleasure at how the afternoon unfolded, as he placed between factory Yamaha riders Maverick Vi?ales and Valentino Rossi to hold ninth position at the wet, murky French venue.

A small upgrade in his electronics package aided the Englishman's feel with traction control, as well as engine braking, a facet of the RS-GP's character with which he has recently struggled.

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Lowes didn't fit slicks in the damp-but-drying conditions in FP1, leaving him 19th fastest on the overall free practice time sheets, but the 26-year old was still entering Saturday in a "quite positive" frame of mind.

"Good. Really good this morning. It was half-and-half. I didn't do many laps, I did three flying laps and felt fast and at the end I didn't use slicks. At the minute, for me, I didn't want to get four or five laps on slicks and not feel good, so we decided to leave it.

"This afternoon I felt very good. Honestly, at Jerez I was so disappointed with the race, all weekend and all test the gap was close. The race was just a disaster, but the actual weekend and test I made a good step forward. I came here feeling quite confident, I enjoyed that session, put a lot of laps in.

"Of course it's in the wet, it doesn't mean so much, but to be in the top ten is still good progression. If you can manage these things and ride these things in the rain, it's still a positive for the dry. I just want to keep showing that progression, keep working hard and the bike's working well.

"We've changed some things on the electronics for this weekend and for me it feels a step better, from what I can tell in the wet conditions. Just some new systems, nothing too extravagant, just a step up from the software.

"I'm looking forward to tomorrow, because it should be dry, you never know at Le Mans, but the forecast is for it to be dry and to have a dry race on Sunday. I want to be in that position in the dry, so we have to keep working, but I'm quite positive for tomorrow.

On how the electronics update had been of use, Lowes continued: "It's a little bit easier for me to understand. With the way the traction control works, it's just a tiny bit different. It's nothing.

"It's actually good for us in the wet because you can get into the traction really easily, to understand it. We needed some miles and laps to understand it, so it's good we had that today, so tomorrow we know exactly where we are to be where we want to be in the dry with the old setting.

""I feel good. The engine brake was a good step for me. One thing I've been struggling with is the engine braking in the straight line, the bike felt very free, all year.

"This new system is to give me more engine brake in a straight line and even in the wet I felt a positive difference. If we can carry that to the dry, especially here at Le Mans where there is a lot of stop-go, I think that would be good for us."

At the post-race test at Jerez Lowes sampled a new swingarm. While he didn't use the component on Friday, the former World Supersport believes, in theory, it could be of use on Le Mans' recently laid surface.

"I've got that in one of my bikes. It's got a different one in each, I didn't use it today because in the rain it would be nearly impossible to give the feedback. I'll try it tomorrow.

"For me, the bike is a lot more stable on the first touch and in track conditions like this in theory there's quite good grip, we should be able to use that to force the tyre in the track. That's the theory behind it, whether we can or not we'll see tomorrow.

Having tested at Le Mans prior to the Spanish Grand Prix, Lowes feels set-up changes at Jerez will be of benefit around the 2.6-mile Bugatti Circuit.

"At Jerez, in the test on the Monday, we tried to load the front a lot more, so we brought the front closer to me. And we've carried that through to here. For that reason it's a bit different to the test.

"But overall, with the wet setting I feel quite positive. I think more weight on the front will be a lot better for the dry as well, especially here with the corners that are coming back on themselves a lot."

By Neil Morrison

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