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EXCLUSIVE WSS: Sam Lowes - Q&A

28 March 2013

By Christian Tiburtius

Sam Lowes began his third season of World Supersport with a second place finish on his Yakhnich Yamaha debut at Phillip Island.

The young Englishman, twin brother of BSB star Alex, previously won five WSS races at PTR Honda.

Here Sam talks about his racing career to date - including his decision to leave PTR - as well as his future ambitions...

Crash.net:
How did you and Alex start out in racing?

Sam Lowes:
We both started at the same time when we were 3 or 4 years old. We had little motor cross bikes for riding in the field with dad and we both had our first motor cross race at the age of 6. We do everything together, not just the racing, we also live together, train together and we're really close. We both always wanted to race and we've got a massive passion for it.

Dad used to race at club level and we used to watch him at Cadwell Park. He must have been quite into it because he bought us the bikes, but there was never any pressure and he never pushed us, we just always just naturally wanted to do it.

Crash.net:
Is there any difference in character between you and Alex?

Sam Lowes:
Yeah, we're totally different in our character, and that's probably why we get on so good.

People often say that Alex is a bit quieter than me and maybe a bit more reserved. I probably do a lot more talking than him!

I think that in racing terms, he's a lot more progressive about how he builds up speed whereas I go out and just try to go fast straight away. In the garage our approach is also quite different.

I think the reason I looked a bit more measured than him last season was that I've got a great amount of experience on the super sports bike whereas Alex still has loads to learn on the super bike. It's like in the recent testing; even in the cold he's just gone out and built up, built up and built up, whereas I'd probably try to get the lap record straight away.

Crash.net:
He's probably got about half a second on Kiyo hasn't he?

Sam Lowes:
Kiyo is a three time champion and a great team-mate for Alex, obviously in racing it's always nice to beat your team-mate, but I think they will be good for each other this year.

Crash.net:
When you practice together, who usually wins?

Sam Lowes:
We're very similar, if you put us on a bike we didn't know, maybe Alex would be a little quicker than me to start with and maybe I would end up a little quicker. But we're really close and I've beaten him as many times as he's beaten me.

We play golf together as well and we're close at that too. One of our great passions is golf, it's one of the hardest games you can play in your head and it can really switch your mind down. I think it helps me with my racing, it's a bit of a chill out, but it still helps with concentration.

Crash.net:
You both look quite similar, have you ever raced pretending that you're Alex?

Sam Lowes:
No, I'd refuse to do that just because of my respect for the sport. But I have pretended to be Alex on many, many occasions. We've sometimes done tests for each other, Alex has done Eurosport interviews for me, and I've done radio interviews for him! If he's busy, I'm always happy to help out.

Crash.net:
But you are definitely Sam, right?

Sam Lowes:
Yep, I'm definitely Sam!

Crash.net:
And who is older?

Sam Lowes:
Me, older and faster!

Crash.net:
Talking about exams, did you have normal schooling?

Sam Lowes:
Yeah I had a normal schooling, my dad was very firm on that and he said that if I wanted to race, I'd have to do well at my exams. I didn't go further than GCSEs but I did get 10 of them, all A* or A, and I didn't find them too much trouble. I found school relatively easy, I was just lucky in that way.

Crash.net:
How often do you attend each other's races?

Sam Lowes:
We come to any races we can unless the calendar clashes. We help each other on the riding side. We'll watch each other and if Alex says something to me about my riding, I always listen because I know he sincerely wants to help.

But I hate watching him ride; it's the worst thing in the world. Last year I got a little better, but before that I couldn't really watch him to be honest. I get a lot more nervous watching him than about myself.

He's really solid now and not making so many mistakes so I don't get so nervous anymore, having said that though, it's a good nervous because I know how good he can be and I just want him to do his best.

Crash.net:
Your results seemed to improve after doing your stint in World Superstock in 2008, would you agree?

Sam Lowes:
I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. A lot of that improvement came with age and opportunity. I was previously in a family team which didn't have the budget or the bike, but I learned quite a lot and also got experience in Europe. I was still quite young.

Also previously I was still working as an electrician for my dad. The deal was that if we worked 5.5 or 6 days a week, he'd pay for the racing. I also had to do training after work, but I was happy enough with that. He put loads of money into the racing and I definitely do appreciate it. I'm lucky to have the parents I do.

The year afterwards I knew that if I wanted to be a bike racer I would have to knuckle down and put everything into it. It was a kind of make or break time for me.

Crash.net:
Are you training more now?

Sam Lowes:
We both moved out of home to Derby because we've got a new trainer, the same one as Leon Haslam uses. You have to move out at some point. Training is important, you've got to know that you are as fit as you possibly can be. It's only when you know that you've given 100% for every lap of the race that you can feel happy.

I usually train 7 until 10:30am every day. It's particularly difficult late November, early December when we start even earlier at 6.30 and it's always hard on the running track in the freezing cold, but that's what makes the difference. People often underestimate how hard it is to ride a bike at our level and the off track commitment and work you have to put in.

It's all linked, if you get tired, you lose concentration and then you can make mistakes. You need to train as hard as you can.

Crash.net:
Last season you were with a race winning team, PTR, but changed to Yakhnich Yamaha, why was that?

Sam Lowes:
It looked great from the outside. I was with PTR for two years and I'm really grateful for what they did for me, however I knew that if I wanted to progress I needed something different.

There were five riders in the team and there wasn't enough focus on each rider. We had five riders and only one data guy and that certainly wasn't what I needed to succeed. Now I've got two data guys just for me and they're working until 11 o'clock over the whole race weekend. So when you only had one guy working just a little bit for you something wasn't quite right.

It's difficult to fund the PTR team because they didn't have any major sponsors so you need some riders to maybe fund the better riders and that's how it works, but there were just too many riders.

There were a lot more reasons for it than that. At the last 3 or 4 rounds of last year I wasn't happy and this offer from Yamaha came together at the right time. I just get so much support from the Yakhnich team. It makes a massive difference having that focus. The new team is fantastic and I couldn't be happier.

Yakhnich isn't a factory team, but we are getting factory support and if we're pushing for the championship that may increase. Also my new team have a massive desire to go to superbikes and they can offer me a long-term contract to stay with them to go there next season. Which bike to use is still being discussed, but in an ideal world it'd be great to be in WSBK on a Yakhnich factory Yamaha.

I haven't tested a superbike yet, but Alex is getting on good so it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Crash.net:
How does the Yamaha compare with the Honda?

Sam Lowes:
The difference is incredible; I've ridden for Honda all my career but they couldn't offer me much more for my future. It was a big decision.

Since coming to Yamaha, it's opened my eyes to what a great manufacturer they are both from the factory and the team point of view. Getting on it was like a breath of fresh air and it was quite a relief.

I've got to ride the bike quite differently, you've got to attack the corner a lot more on the Yamaha and use the power to fire it out whereas on the Honda you had to run through the turns. The Honda may be faster at the end of the straight, but the Yamaha is a lot faster and more aggressive off the turns.

The electronics on the Yamaha are also unbelievable.

The Honda is getting a bit long in the tooth now as well and there wasn't much development going on or things left to try. Whereas we've got loads of things to try on the Yamaha and I don't think we've seen anywhere near the full potential of it yet. We've got engine and gearbox upgrades coming in the next few rounds and given that we got second in our first race, that makes the future look pretty bright.

Crash.net:
Take us through that second place at Phillip Island?

Sam Lowes:
All weekend my rhythm and pace was fastest, but I got an average start. I managed to get to the front but we'd chosen the wrong gearbox ratio, the gap between 5th and 6th was too big and every time I changed up at the end of the straight, Sofuoglu would pass me and then I was held up for the rest of the lap until I could pass him again. He saw that, and being the champion and rider that he is, that meant he could then control the race because he knew he could always pass me back at the end of the straight.

If I'd had two laps where Kenan hadn't passed me, I could have pulled away and won, but that just shows what a class rider Kenan is.

The race didn't go according to plan with the tyre either; I'd done lots of different length runs and was confident beforehand. But I'd got, in my opinion, a bad tyre from the start so didn't have a massive amount of grip and in the last two laps I just had nothing. When I got off the bike in park ferme, the rear tyre was just full of holes.

Deep down I was a little disappointed because we could have won the race, but my team have hammered it into me that coming away from PI with second place points is no bad result.

Crash.net:
Team Yakhnich has a rider called Nadia Yakhnich, is she the owner?

Sam Lowes:
No, she's the owner's wife and she's got hobbies like pole dancing and aircraft acrobatics, but the team owner Alexander Yakhnich is a very cool guy and has a lot of ideas to progress the team. They're all very proud people who want to show what modern Russia can do.

But the team base is in Italy and most of my mechanics are Italian.

Some of them worked with Chaz Davies in his championship-winning year. One of my mechanics, Andrea Ballerini, is actually a 125GP race winner. Everyone in the garage communicates in English. But I get on great with them. I feel they believe in me, and I certainly believe in them.

Crash.net:
Do you have any ambitions towards the MotoGP paddock?

Sam Lowes:
Not right now because at the moment I don't think they know what's going on. If and when I do achieve my goals in WSBK, I'm hoping that MotoGP will have a clearer direction. At the moment there's CRTs, next year maybe there are no CRTs and it's difficult to get a clear idea of what's going on. Having said that, it is the pinnacle of the sport so perhaps I need to look at it again in a couple of years' time when I've got more experience.

If I do win the WSS championship this year, I'll only be 22 and I'll be the youngest to do it.

Crash.net:
But you've got to beat Kenan first…

Sam Lowes:
He's a good guy, a lot of people don't like him and I have to admit that in the past he wasn't my favourite person. But I do respect him for his achievements and his work ethic.

I think it will come down to me and him this year. Kenan works harder every year and is more determined every year, but I've got no mental problem with him. To me he's just another rider, a very good one, but just another one. It's not like I haven't beaten him before, I just need to do it consistently.

My big thing is that I have to do what I did in PI, when the situation isn't right, I just need to sit back and take the points. For me, it's all about managing the bad days; if the win is there I'll go for it. My bad days have to be third place finishes rather than last year when they were DNFs.

Crash.net:
Why did you have bad days last year?

Sam Lowes:
The main thing was the focus, like I said before.

In the second half of last year a few things started to go wrong and there were some fallings out in the team, and to fight at the front of a world championship, everything has to be right. The bike needs to be good and you have to be happy in the team. It's not about luck when you win or lose a race, and the fact that things weren't right showed in the mistakes I and other people made.

Crash.net:
So was it bike, team or rider?

Sam Lowes:
Obviously I'm not going to say rider! And I'm not going to say team because I'm trying to be nice and I'm not going to say bike because I like Honda. I know why the end of last year didn't go according to plan, but I'm not going to say it. I will say that if one of those elements isn't right then it's not going to happen though.

Crash.net:
Your goal has to be the world championship right?

Sam Lowes:
In private I know I've got the potential to become world champion, I don't want to be big headed and say that to everyone though, but now I've got the team and the bike, I can do it.

Racing's my life and I'd literally do anything to become world champion.

Crash.net:
What would you see as getting in the way of you getting the championship?

Sam Lowes:
Just him, just Kenan!

Also the fact that I haven't got so much experience on the bike, I've only ridden it at a couple of tracks. The Yamaha's potential is a lot more than the Honda, but it's a lot harder to set up as well. So us not having so much experience of the Yamaha may slow me down a bit on some tracks whereas Kenan has already had a year on the Kawasaki.

Crash.net:
What was your hardest year in racing?

Sam Lowes:
That had to be in 2011. I didn't know any of the circuits and I had to learn all the tracks. I think I did a lot better that year than people give me credit for. I was 20 years old and got podiums in my first season in a world championship.

Also my good result at the first race at PI put pressure on me for the rest of the season. I was never comfortable and had to push harder than I wanted to so was making too many mistakes and had a few crashes and injuries

Crash.net:
What do you think was the worst state you've been in on the grid before a race?

Sam Lowes:
Probably last year at Donington Park.

We did a white-water PR event before the race, and I swallowed loads of water. I was fine for practice on Friday, but two hours after getting off the bike I got really sick. I was having injections from the doctors and just couldn't keep out of the bathroom.

I was up all night and thought I was going to puke in my helmet in practice next morning so I didn't ride in the morning. Saturday afternoon I didn't feel any better, but we put on some qualifiers to try and get a time and I crashed on the last corner, probably because I was too weak. I got my hand stuck under the handlebar and broke and dislocated a finger, there was bone coming out of the skin and I was in Derby hospital until 2am being stitched up.

I was passed fit to ride on Sunday, but it was hurting even with an injection numbing my hand, but despite all that I went out and won the race. Halfway through the race my hand was hurting badly but at least I didn't feel sick anymore. I finished the weekend about two stone lighter than when I started it.

That just went from being one of the worst weekends to being one of my best weekends ever. I crossed the line in tears.

Crash.net:
I've got money on you for the championship…

Sam Lowes:
Well that's it then, now I know you've got money on me I'll have to do it!


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