Sam Lowes “decided on WorldSBK after Jerez win”, chose Marc VDS over factory

Just moments after winning this year’s Spanish Moto2 Grand Prix, Sam Lowes decided he would start a new career in WorldSBK next season.
Sam Lowes, Moto2, Spanish MotoGP, 29 April
Sam Lowes, Moto2, Spanish MotoGP, 29 April

While many might expect Lowes’ first Moto2 win in over a year – and tenth of his career - to sway him towards staying, the Englishman saw it as proof he is still fast enough to take on the Superbike challenge.

Speaking for the first time since Marc VDS officially announced it will enter WorldSBK with Lowes on Ducati machinery in 2024, the 32-year-old explained:

“It sounds so strange to say it, but literally on my in-lap after winning in Jerez and going to the podium, I kind of made a decision I wanted to go to Superbike.

“Because of how I felt and everything, it was like ‘this is amazing, but I've still got a lot to give. I still feel fast. I still feel competitive. I can still do a race like that’.

"So to go to a new category riding like that, I can do something nice.

“If I wait a bit longer, maybe my motivation goes down, speed goes down. Just to go there [to WorldSBK] and ride around, I would prefer to not go.

"So it's a strange thing to say, given that I’d just won a grand prix, but at that point, I knew that Superbike was what I wanted to do.”

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A major push factor was the change in the MotoGP weekend schedule, which has seen the addition of a Sprint race for the premier class but less track time for Moto2 and Moto3.

“The main reason is that I've been a long time in Moto2, I felt some weekends I was not getting the most out of myself because of the [reduced] track time and the way the schedule is,” added the 2013 World Supersport champion, who will have spent ten years in grand prix, nine in Moto2 and one in MotoGP.

“It’d be different if it was five years ago, but now I'm getting a bit older! I just felt like I wanted to travel less and ride more. Not travel more and ride less.

“It was important for me to change now. If I would have stayed in Moto2 I felt like I'd do one or two more years and then sort of stopped my career there. Whereas if I come to Superbike now, knuckle down and achieve good things, I feel like I can get a few more years and am very motivated to do so.”

Sam Lowes, Moto2, Dutch MotoGP, 23 June
Sam Lowes, Moto2, Dutch MotoGP, 23 June

Lowes: Staying with Marc VDS “a no brainer”, one-rider team in 2024

Having made the decision to go to WorldSBK, a championship he is long familiar with from his own Supersport efforts and supporting twin brother Alex since 2014, Sam initially spoke to existing teams.

But when Marc van der Straten, whose squad has run Lowes in Moto2 since 2020 and where wife Marina is team director, heard of the discussions VDS expressed interest in forming a Superbike team with him.

Talks with Ducati soon accelerated and, for Lowes, the chance to switch to WorldSBK but still remain with Marc VDS was “a no-brainer”.

“I was looking at Superbike. I had a couple of options to go there in other private teams, potentially also in one of the factory teams,” Lowes said.

“So I was talking to them and that's when it got spoken about [within Marc VDS] and just before Le Mans they mentioned they would also be interested in going and what do I think?

“It was a funny time because I had the offer to stay [with Marc VDS] in Moto2 and also to go [with them to WorldSBK]! It was nice. It just sort of came about and then evolved over the next weeks and months.

“I think it's all down to Mark [van der Straten]. Mark has a big passion for racing. I also think the Ducati people were very good with him and pushed the project actually early on in Le Mans, so it made it even more that they wanted to do it.

“I had to decide a couple of weeks ago whether I go another direction in Superbike, or with the [Marc VDS] team. Honestly, for me, it’s a no-brainer. In the end, it's good to be on a factory bike, but when you're in a team like Marc VDS - OK it's not factory, but they provide absolutely everything that you could need.

“[Marc VDS] is like a factory team in my opinion and it's perfect for me to go with these people.

"I have a great relationship obviously with certain people in the team, but also with Mark and for me, it was not much of a decision in the end. It was the right thing to do.”

For the first year of the project at least, Lowes will be the team's only rider while the crew will largely be picked from existing Superbike teams to avoid weakening the multi-title winning Marc VDS Moto2 project.

“It's definitely just one rider [for 2024],” Lowes said. “It's quite a big thing to set up a new team in a new category, especially when we finish in [Moto2] at the end of November and then the end of February is usually the first race for Superbikes. So it's quite a small turnaround in that sense.

“Obviously the head of the [WorldSBK] team will be the same in effect, with Patrick [Kramer] running the technical side and Marina running everything else. But the mechanics, the people working on the bike, the engineers and the crew will be from Superbike because obviously Mark and the whole team is very committed to the Moto2 project for next year and the future.

“So [WorldSBK] will be a new venture with some support, some people from Ducati.

“I think everyone can see how good that [Marc VDS Moto2 team] is and I personally know how good that team is. So I think it’s not right to mix that up to do the [WorldSBK] project. Also, they're quite different, the bikes, the categories. So at the minute, the plan is Moto2 will stay very similar to now personnel-wise although obviously I'm leaving and I don't know what Tony [Arbolino] will do yet.

“I think the team and Mark should be proud to be in Moto2 - and then also in Superbike, where on each race weekend you're in the top class. I think that's also something to look at for Mark.”

Sam Lowes, Moto2 race, Spanish MotoGP, 30 April
Sam Lowes, Moto2 race, Spanish MotoGP, 30 April

"I've raced a lot of WorldSBK guys in Moto2"

In terms of adapting his riding style to the bigger Superbike and Pirelli rubber, Lowes said:

“I ride a lot in the winter with the R1. Obviously on Dunlops because Moto2 is Dunlops so it’d be silly to use a different tyre.

"But I ride those [Superbikes] a little bit better. My riding style in Moto2 is more stop-start so that should be a good point [in WorldSBK].

“Obviously everything's a lot less stiff, moves a lot more, the tyres the chassis, everything [in WorldSBK]. But also you have the electronics which apart from my year in Aprilia [MotoGP] we don't have in Moto2 so there'll be some interesting new things.

“Of course, you have to adapt and understand. There'll be some things that I don't know that are going to be different. But I feel good.

“You have the top three guys [in WorldSBK] really at another level, I think everyone would say. And then the rest of the guys, I've raced a lot of them in Moto2 and been competitive against them.

“As long as I’ve been in grand prix, Alex has been in Superbikes, so I’m also lucky that I’ve followed Superbikes very closely for the last ten years and know certain things from talking to Alex a lot each weekend, about the problems they face in different areas.

“So I think it’s a good time to go and start learning."

The hectic nature of the remaining Moto2 season means Lowes doesn’t expect to debut on a WorldSBK spec Ducati Panigale, currently dominating with reigning champion Alvaro Bautista, until after November’s Valencia finale.

“There’s only a couple of weeks now until Silverstone, and then we've got 12 rounds left of a big schedule, so I'm looking forward to that and not really thinking about the new project just yet, especially riding-wise," Lowes said.

“Of course, I'm looking forward to [WorldSBK] and can't wait, but the first thing is to get some nice results and add to my achievements in Moto2.

"Then as soon as Valencia finishes, I'll be jumping on some Pirellis. I don't know the testing schedule yet but I'll definitely ride a Ducati this year, after I finish with the Moto2."

Lowes is currently eighth in the Moto2 standings, with one victory and two pole positions.

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