How 'calmer' Sam Lowes is getting in the Moto2 'flow'

A new team and new mental approach is helping Sam Lowes enjoy his best Moto2 grand prix season since 2016.
Sam Lowes, Moto2 race, Catalunya MotoGP. 27 September 2020
Sam Lowes, Moto2 race, Catalunya MotoGP. 27 September 2020
© Gold and Goose

Sam Lowes credits 'important work on a mental and psychological level' for helping return to the front of the Moto2 field this season.

Despite being ruled out of the Qatar opener by a winter training injury, the Englishman has gone on to claim his first podiums since 2016, during eight races for the Marc VDS team.

The Belgian squad, which won last year's crown with Alex Marquez, faced criticism for signing Lowes, just 16th in the standings in the two seasons following his return from MotoGP.

But with six rounds to go, Lowes has emerged as its clear team leader, holding fourth in the world championship and twelve places ahead of team-mate Augusto Fernandez.

“The main difference is that I'm older and have more wrinkles than in the past!" joked 30-year-old Lowes. "But seriously, when you start working with new people and a new project you inevitably change as an individual and professional.

"However, I'm doing important work on a mental and psychological level.

"I would say that this year I am more focused on the really important aspects of a race weekend.”

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That includes better preparation before he gets on the bike and not thinking beyond the current track session.

“I have more of a routine like stretching and meditation exercises that help me focus before I get on the bike," he said.

"And what I’m working on the most is when there are distractions, I’m teaching the brain to get back to a calm state and that has helped me a lot this year.

"For example, when the red flag came in Misano [2] because of the rain, I would have become very nervous, I would have perhaps lost focus and easily made a mistake in the past. Instead, I knew how to stay calm, I focused on the job in hand and I ended up on the podium.”

Lowes was also able to keep a calm head when starting from the pit lane in Misano 1, as punishment for a braking mistake that brought down Chantra and Navarro in Austria, riding from 28th to 8th.

"I have also changed the way I approach the weekend," Lowes continued. "I try to approach it in parts to focus only on the most immediate session to which I devote 100% of my effort and attention.

"Before, I only thought about the final goal on Sunday when in fact, to reach it, you have to have done a million other things right before. It's like in football, if you want to win in the 90th minute, you have to have attacked and defended well in the previous 89 minutes.

"I go out in FP1 and then we analyse the data and results. Then we set new objectives for FP2. I go to FP2 and we repeat the process until the race. The final objective does not change, but the way to try to reach it does and it gives me more confidence.”

'Everything flows, everything comes easier'

Admitting he would sometimes get 'upset and distracted' in the past, Lowes is now careful to avoid dwelling on the 'wrong things'.

"I like the word flow, because that's precisely what I'm working on. I try to flow and put myself in this relaxed and calm environment in my brain, so everything happens more natural," he explained.

"I've always been lucky enough to be a fast rider. Even if sometimes the results didn't show it, the speed has always been there. However, there were other things that upset and distracted me. I’d get too nervous and look too much at the wrong things and that would snowball and get worse week after week if the results didn’t come.

"Now I only focus on the aspects that I can control, and everything flows, everything comes easier. Without a doubt, being on a good team and surrounded by the right people helps create the perfect environment to be able to adopt this attitude and mentality.

"I knew that the mental aspect was important, but I was surprised by how much and it is definitely helping me a lot this year.”

The end result is that, having proven he can be competitive again, Lowes now has his sight set on race victory.

“When I signed with the team my first goal was to be competitive again. I'm not ashamed to say that last year I wasn't. But now I am. At this point, the current goal is to win races again," he said.

"In the last few races I have gained a lot of confidence… I really believe that I can win or fight to win. It has been a long time since I felt this way and for me that is something very important.”

47 points behind Luca Marini with 150 points still up for grabs means the title remains mathematically possible.

“The desire to win the World Championship is always there, although I am aware that we are a little behind now because I missed the first race in Qatar with the injury and then there was the unfortunate mistake in Austria," Lowes said.

"There’s not much more margin for error but we have seen before that with a few good races you can recover quite a lot of points. You never know, you have to fight until the end, and that's what we'll do.”

Starts, braking..

One key area for Lowes to try and improve over the remaining rounds is his race starts.

"I think my best one this year was from pitlane in Misano!" Lowes said.

“This year I started having a rear brake lever on the handlebars and while it has helped me a lot, the position of the clutch lever has changed, and I need time to adapt. It’s an issue that I have with most starts because it is not like I am good at them in practice and then make a bad one in the race.

"I'm working hard on it and it's important to improve it because it will save me the extra effort of having to come back during the first few laps.

"Another thing I think I can improve is the way I release the brake. Sometimes, when I want to push hard in the beginning of the race, I release the brake a little bit too fast and that can unsettle the front.”

All in all, Lowes feels 7.5 out of 10 would be a fair score for his season so far:

“It would have been an 8 but I have not yet won a race, but I hope to give myself a good reason to award myself a higher score at the end of the season...”

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