Sam Lowes kept himself in the thick of the Moto2 title fight by salvaging a fourth place in tough circumstances at Assen on Sunday.

The Englishman dropped back to sixth for the opening half of the race, but was able to maintain his pace and retaliate in the later stages - picking off Thomas Luthi and then Lorenzo Baldassarri.

With Franco Morbidelli just 1.5s ahead a podium was on the cards, but the race was to be halted two laps early due to rain.

"I couldn't get past Baldassarri as quickly as I wanted, I kept having really big slides and moments trying to pass him. If it didn't rain I think I could have caught Morbidelli, I was taking quite a lot out of him," Lowes confirmed.

"The podium was on for sure. I wasn't going to beat Nakagami, but I could have gone with Zarco if we had the bike more-or-less how we wanted. We need to improve a little bit.

"I came here expecting to win because it's a good track for me. But in the end we didn't have the pace. I had no grip"

The Gresini Kalex rider explained that he has been running a stiffer swingarm since pre-season testing, which may not be a good match for the harder Dunlop tyres.

"It's just a bit stiffer and then when you have the hard tyre as well it's a bit much. Whereas at Jerez, where you have a soft tyre, you could really dig it in and drive. Here we were spinning a little bit," he said. "The softer swingarm does work the tyre more, but I didn't have the grip at all so I think we'd have been better with the softer one."

Gearing and an ill-fated change his suspension also contributed to the taxing Assen race.

"I used first gear onto the back straight last year but the information the team had was second [would be better] and on the data I was losing time there last year. So we went with second. I got in the race thinking everyone would be the same and they were all using first. I was losing so much onto the back straight, which is a mistake from our side.

"To be honest after three laps in that race I'd have taken fourth because I was struggling a lot. But in the end it was coming better and I thought 'I need another ten laps' because my grip level went like this [the same throughout the race] and theirs went [downwards].

"That's always the way with WP to Ohlins [suspension]; Ohlins is more consistent, WP works the tyre and then drops off a bit. I also went even harder than this morning with the spring and I think it wasn't right.

"But it wasn't a disaster was it? I'm a bit disappointed but it was a strange weekend with the weather. I'll take it because I'm finishing, getting experience and gathering information. Rins had a worse day than me. We'll be alright."

Lowes was also quick to congratulate Takaaki Nakagami on his first victory.

"It's good that other people are getting involved. Three years ago Nakagami was the next best thing. He had all those podiums in a row against Pol and Scott, good people, so he can ride a bike. It's not been easy the past few years so well done to him, getting his first win. He rode well."

The former World Supersport champion will head for the midway stage of the season, at Sachsenring, just five points behind title leaders Alex Rins and Johann Zarco.

"I think every race we've done nearly the best we can with the package we had on the day. And it's your bad days where you win the championship isn't it? People have criticised me in the past for crashing, but I'm finishing up there every week now."

Lowes now has the perfect chance to take his mind off Assen with a MotoGP debut at Misano later this week, when he will get his first taste of the kind of machinery he will race in 2017.

"I can't wait," he said. "I've looked at the weather. It'll be 28 degrees in Misano. Wednesday and Thursday I'll be riding."

By Peter McLaren


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