An interview with World Superbike contender Alex Lowes, who enters his third year in the series aboard the factory-supported R1.

Question:
You dislocated your shoulder at the end of November. Physically, how are you at the moment?

Alex Lowes:
The crash was not too bad. The problem was I dislocated my shoulder, which can happen. Anytime we crash something like this can happen. I dislocated my shoulder and when it dislocated I fractured the top of my arm. The normal implications of a dislocation are that you have to rest the arm so it comes back. Sometimes you need an operation. I didn't need that luckily. I just had to immobilise the arm for three and a half weeks so December was quite difficult because I couldn't really do anything. It seems to be coming on quite good. Since Christmas I can feel it getting a lot better. It's been good for me because I had a lot of time to relax, refresh. I feel nice and sharp, ready to start the season.

Question:
Are you worried that you missed two days at the Jerez test through injury?

Alex Lowes:
You can test as many times as you want to test. In the past we've been fast in testing and then you get to Phillip Island and it's totally different anyway. I fell in love with the bike after a few laps. I'm in good shape fitness wise. When the shoulder is stronger and ready I'll be alright. It's a long year so it's important to have a nice, solid start to the year.

Question:
Are you confident you will be at full fitness for the start of the season?

Alex Lowes:
I'll be 100 percent in Phillip Island. In terms of testing it might be difficult. The test in Portugal and Jerez I need to just do some laps and get my brain back up to speed. I don't think I'll even be mentioning the shoulder when it comes to Phillip Island. I want to start the year quite strong and then go from there. I feel really calm actually. I don't feel like I've missed anything.

Question:
Do you feel calmer now than you did than last year?

Alex Lowes:
Yeah, last year was difficult. As was the year before. I think they were great years really. If I didn't have the two difficult years I don't think I'd appreciate the opportunity that I've got now and maybe I wouldn't be ready for it. I think you learn more in a difficult year. Last year I was proud of myself in that I didn't have the most competitive package, and in racing there are often circumstances where things happen beyond my control, which were negative. I dealt with it good. I turned up to the last race of the year at Qatar as fit and motivated as I was at the first. I did a good job. It wasn't the result we needed to get because we had problems with the bike. The team worked really well. When you can sit back on the flight from Qatar and think, 'You know what? I did as good as I could...' I've won championships and races before and the difference between winning and losing is not a lot. You can't win all the time if the materials are not there.
Question:
Are there many new faces in the team?

Alex Lowes:
A few new faces. It's a lot bigger team this year with a lot more support from the factory. Everything is there. The bike is new so maybe it's going to take us a few races to get up to speed.

Question:
How many races do you think it will take to get up to speed?

Alex Lowes:
I don't know. Everybody says more than I say but I think we should be fast from the start. There is no reason why we shouldn't be competitive from the first races. There's nothing more than that. I feel good. The team is fantastic. My team-mate has obviously been world champion before. He understands everyone as well.

Question:
How is your relationship with your new team-mate Sylvain Guintoli?

Alex Lowes:
It's ok. We're not really friends but I have a lot of respect for him as world champion. He's been there. He's done it. He's raced in MotoGP. I've not won races. I've not won world championships. So it would be silly for me not to give him the respect. I'm going to try and learn from him as much as I can. My number one goal is to beat him as well. I think that I've learnt a lot more than people think in the last two years and I'm going to learn a bit from him, keep a bit for myself and do a good job. If I can be at the front every week I think it'd bring the best out in me. I've not been able to do that very much in the last two years. I know what the capabilities are. It's a case of just trying to be smart and understanding [them]. The thing with Sylvain is that he'll finish where he needs to finish every weekend. If he needs to finish fifth... Last year on the Honda he did a champion's job. He didn't have a good relationship with the bike but he did a good job all year. He kept motivated all year. This is a sign of a champion, like he is. It won't be easy to beat him. I've got a lost of respect for him. I think I can be fast and the relationship is fine. Keeping the respect is always easy.

Question:
Last year you were running for a team that didn't have any factory support. Now that you do, what is the biggest change?

Alex Lowes:
The biggest change is that you finish the test and speak to the guys, request some parts in some areas on the bike and you turn up at the next one and they have some ideas to come back to you. Not that I struggle for motivation but when you know the team behind you are putting in... I'm not saying that the team last year didn't put in 100 percent. The mechanics and the guys in the workshop worked harder than any people I've met. But in terms of having the factory wanting results, and trying to develop the bike for results, it makes the motivation to rider a lot easier. You have something that can help you progress and that's why it's easy to get up in the morning and go training. It's not like a job!

Question:
In the presentation Sylvain said that after his first laps on the R1 it reminded him of his time on the Yamaha M1 in MotoGP. It was that good. Were you similarly impressed?

Alex Lowes:
Unfortunately I don't have a Yamaha M1 to compare it to. But I did five laps, came in. My brother was there along with a couple of friends. I had a smile on my face. Honestly, after about two laps I knew that I was going to be in a lot better position than I've been in. the position I was in was so far away from where I want to be. I've not ridden the Kawasaki, the Ducati, the other factory bikes. So I'm in a lot better position than I was but I'm not sure. I can't compare with anything. Sylvain can obviously compare it to the GP bikes, he has a lot more experience. He said it's already pretty good. But in terms of it being ready to win world championships we still have a little bit of work to do, which is normal. We need to wait and see. My first impressions are really good. Like I said, I love the bike. I've never had the same sort of feelings riding the bike as I've had riding this one. I'm hoping I can show what I can do and also show that I've matured a lot in the last two years when things haven't gone to plan. Let's see what happens.

Question:
One of the positive things the team were saying in Jerez at the end of last year was that the base was solid. You didn't need to change a great deal to be fast from Aragon to Jerez. Do you agree?

Alex Lowes:
Yeah. Sylvain is a lot more methodical than me and he understands everything. I understand it as well. But I just ride the bike. It worked in Aragon. It worked in Jerez. That's all I know. Once it works at another track we'll be alright. I understand the strengths of the bike. I understand where we need to improve. We just need to keep working at that. The only thing that I don't understand is what we need to win because I obviously haven't been in that position. I've had podiums and some flashes of good results on the Suzuki. But in terms of having a bike that can put a full season together I think I've got it there. I expect quite good things. Yeah, it's not too far.

Question:
Which area needs the most work?

Alex Lowes:
Unfortunately, like every rider in every interview in World Superbike, we need to work on the electronics. That's where most of the time is gained. That's where most of the tyre life... everything is improved by the electronics. The actual base of the bike; the chassis, the handling is fantastic. The engine is continuing to be developed so we don't know where we are with that. We'll know in the next couple of weeks after these tests. We'll keep working hard on the electronics, enjoy riding the bike, give the guys some good feedback and that's it.

Question:
You are testing in Portimao this week. Will you have another test before the series kicks off in Australia?

Alex Lowes:
Yeah, we're in Portugal for two days. Then we have two days rest and then we're in Jerez. I should be fine to do some laps. I'll see how I feel. It's a little bit of an unknown because there are a lot of new parts for this test. What we thought in November has already changed. We need to confirm the same feelings and hopefully find some improvements in the areas that I wasn't as happy with. These tests are quite important.

Question:
Have you ever tested this much before?

Alex Lowes:
I've tested before but never this much. Sometimes you get to a test and you have nothing to test. You just work on yourself and familiarise yourself with the team. Now we are testing and we have a list of things to test. We have a list of things that are arriving. It's one of the reasons that I said the motivation is so high. Also, I feel a lot more relaxed. You can go in a calm way. However we start in Phillip Island, when we arrive in Qatar our bike is going to be better. That won't be the same for the other riders. We're in a good position.

Question:
How did you feel ten minutes before you went out on the bike for the first time? Were you a little nervous? Was there a lot of tension?

Alex Lowes:
Nervous I suppose. I don't really know how bad or good I rode in the first two years. I did more or less the same job as [Eugene] Laverty, my team-mate [in 2014]. The year before he finished second in the world. I don't know if I was riding good, if I was riding bad. All I know is that I did my best. I think this year [2015] the bike maybe made a step back and the results were similar. I think I was riding really well. But when I got on this bike I thought, 'Maybe I was riding good.'

I don't want to sound bad about the Suzuki but you don't understand the level. As soon as I had something else to compare to it was a big step forward. Obviously as soon as you go out of the pits you think, 'Oh, this is better.' Everything from there is positive. Of course you're worried. In every sport in the world the best athletes are worrying, not about themselves, but about what they can do to be better. i was a little bit nervous but now I'm alright. The injury I think was quite good for me because it made me calm down in the winter. I didn't go too hard and then arrive at the first race tired. I can't wait to get started.

Question:
Neither Crescent rider ran transponders in Jerez. Were you satisfied with the times you posted?

Alex Lowes:
Yeah. The first day on the bike before I crashed I was competitive. I was quite fast. If I've learnt something in the last few years it's that that doesn't matter. I was faster than I went on the Suzuki in the first tests. I was alright. I think if we had had two more days testing we'd have been competitive. I'm not sure if we'd have been competitive with the Kawasakis. I think we'd have been a little bit behind. But that's ok. They've won the champion. They've got two world champions on the bike. They've got a new bike. We know we're going to have to work hard to catch them and that's a challenge that I look forward to.

Question:
Will the 2016 engine be available for the test in Portim?o?

Alex Lowes:
I think so, yeah. I don't know.

Question:
What was the reasoning behind not running transponders in Jerez?

Alex Lowes:
No. I don't really care. It doesn't make any difference to me if I was two seconds faster or two seconds slower. From that point we had a lot to improve. But I think it adds to the excitement if it was someone's decision to not run them. At the end of the day the other riders know. They're on track with other guys. They know where we are. They know we have a lot of work to do. Also I think they'll be a little bit worried as well. I think if people understand the situation I was in last year and if they understand that Sylvain has been a world champion, they'll understand the bike has a lot of potential. If that's not enough for people to think... I don't know. Like I said, they are champions. The reason people win championships is not just by luck. I think they know we've got good bikes. We know the Kawasakis and Chaz [Davies] will be strong. We have to make sure that we're as close to them as possible.

Question:
I know we are still in January. Is it too early to speak of expectations for the year ahead?

Alex Lowes:
I know I can be as fast as them. I know I'm as fit as them. There's nothing else to it. Have we got the package to win the championship in our first year? I think it would be a massive, massive task. I don't know about that. Is the Yamaha good enough to win races? Yes. Is it going to be good enough at Phillip Island? I don't know, because we haven't been at that track yet. I expect and I would be very, very sad if we didn't win some races this year. Simple as that.

 

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