Crash.net:
Now you've had time to get used to the Yamaha, what are your feelings about it?
Alex Lowes:
Overall I've got to say it's good. The general level of the bike is high but the main thing is that it's got such a lot of potential and it's that which makes what's happening so frustrating.

We really need more time to unlock the bike's potential to make it more competitive with the other front runners.

Having said that though we always knew it was going to be a difficult start to the year because it's a new team and project. The pace we're showing is probably about where we thought we would be and that's already pretty quick and at Aragon work that they've done should mean that we'll be making a further step forwards for the European rounds.
Crash.net:
How does it compare to the Suzuki?
Alex Lowes:
The short answer is totally different. I've not experienced a bike like this in all the ones I've ridden so far. Up to now it's just been let's say normal Japanese 4 cylinder bikes with pretty similar engine characteristics like the Honda and Suzuki and the crossplane Yamaha has come as an interesting change. It's different character means that it does need a different riding style to get the best from it so I've had that to contend with that along with all the rest of the changes.

The Suzuki was an old design and was actually pretty easy to ride. The Yamaha's not hard to ride but it's more sophisticated and because it's got its own character you have to approach it in it's own way. With the Suzuki you could just go out and give it a good old go but with the Yamaha you have to approach things in a more considered way to get the most out of it.

The Suzuki was an excellent bike in that it was balanced and did everything good, it just didn't do anything really good. With the Yamaha there are some things which are really good and others we're working on but I'm expecting them to be really good as well so there's far more to look forward to. The Suzuki was well developed and balanced but you never felt that there was more to come. That's why it's so exciting working with the Yamaha

Even basic stuff on the Yamaha is already good, people said that the Suzuki was a great handling bike but I would say that the Yamaha is already better. One thing I would say though is that if you try to be too aggressive with the turning you can have problems whereas with the Suzuki you could be as sharp as you liked without unsettling the it - you need to be far more disciplined to ride the Yamaha. That's something I'll have to work on.

The main thing though is that it's a bike I really enjoy riding and always look forward to getting on it and that's half the battle. With some bikes you're not that fussed but this one it's fun and makes a great sound.
Crash.net:
You mentioned before that you were with a new team, aren't you still with Crescent?
Alex Lowes:
It is still Crescent but it has changed a lot in the dynamics of how the team works. There is a lot of input from Yamaha so this season it works in a more factory way and also there's a difference in terms of who's in charge of technical development.

From the outside it's still Crescent, from the inside though it's still bedding down and finding ways to work together smoothly which is normal for a new organisation.

Also at a practical level I've got a new crew chief so that's another new thing to get used to.
Crash.net:
Most people would say that you have a pretty aggressive style, are you finding that you've got to change that to get the best out of the Yamaha?
Alex Lowes:
Sure little bits here and there but what we've been finding is that changing a rider's style to fit the bike wasn't working in a racing situation. Nowadays in WSBK with super fast riders like Johnny, Chaz and Tom you've got to be straight on it. You can't set up and ride a bike like a 600 carrying lots of corner speed and ride it for the end of the race because by the end they'll be long gone, in a race situation you need to be aggressive and on it from the start.

The days of staying smooth, preserving tyres and waiting for the last 5 laps to sort it out are gone really. With the new electronics all the guys are doing fast laps at the start and at the end. You've got to be there from the start and dial the bike in to suit the rider doing that. Nowadays lots of the riders are putting in their best laps in the last 3rd of the race but in the past WSBK wasn't famous for that, it's become more like MotoGP where they do the same lap times all race. Electronics are managing things and have helped to smooth out rough engines

You could say that I'm getting rid of the rough edges of my style but the aggressive attitude still needs to be there to get a good result. My 6th at Thailand showed that I was getting it pretty right.
Crash.net:
How about the electronic level of the bike?
Alex Lowes:
Obviously Yamaha weren't in WSBK last year so for them it's all new, there was no other championship with an equivalent technical level where they could get some experience. The BSB Yamaha was using Motec and the 8 hours was using MotoGP electronics so they've had to start from scratch with the Magnetti Marelli set up.

Carrying out the electronic development from the start of the year alone has been a massive project.
Crash.net:
So it sounds to me as if one of the Yamaha's greatest strengths is the amount of potential it's still got?
Alex Lowes:
Absolutely, I'd say that the bike is only at about 80% in comparison with what it'll be even in the middle of the year. We're literally getting new stuff all the time including some small steps for the next race. That's the frustrating thing because for us almost the biggest thing is just trying to get more time for developing parts and testing them before the race.

The long and short of it though is that it's just going to get better and better. I've got no doubt that at the end of the year we'll be challenging for wins ready for a proper go next year. That's been what Yamaha have been saying right from the start.
Crash.net:
So you've got a 2 year contract but is it with Crescent or Yamaha?
Alex Lowes:
Yamaha, both riders are contracted to the factory which also obviously makes it a bit different from last year. The team also has a contract with them for 3 years so that means that we've got a bit of stability.
Crash.net:
Given that Sylvain's style is so different to yours, does that mean that there's not a lot of data sharing??
Alex Lowes:
We may have pretty different styles but it's good to see that we're usually giving the same feedback and complaining about the same things so there is some overlap.
Crash.net:
...and can you say which things you're both complaining about?
Alex Lowes:
I can't really say because our competitors might read this! But the same 2 or 3 points always come up which is important for Yamaha because then they can be sure about what needs fixing and can get on with it with confidence. Don't worry it's not something exceptional or serious, it's just the kind of thing any factory team will work on, hopefully some for this weekend.
Crash.net:
It's fair to say that you haven't had the start at Yamaha that you would have wanted, is that something which you dwell on?
Alex Lowes:
Yeah it's not been ideal and particularly after 2 bad years at Suzuki. The main thing is always to distinguish what's your fault, fix it and let what's not your fault go as quickly as possible. That's all you can do in any sport and at the start of this year there have been things happening which are nobody's fault.

It's easy for fans and journalists to have huge expectations with factory Yamaha coming back to WSBK but all that's unfair in some ways because everything is totally new. We're developing a bike in public with lots of pressure and any normal teething problems you get are magnified. We saw the same thing when Ducati were developing the Panigale. They struggled for a couple of years but I think that Yamaha will arrive at the front faster than they did.

Yamaha want to be genuinely competitive at the end of the first year, which would be quite an achievement, as a rider though you want to be fast straight away. In new projects you have to handle the setbacks when they come and make the most of any situation even if you can't win and I think I did that in Thailand even though I had one issue beyond my control.

I've actually taken some confidence from Thailand and am going to Aragon with realistic goal of beating Sylvain as much as I can and riding for the places I can and keeping an eye on the important thing which is that the bike is getting better and better. I'd love to be doing better but actually given our situation I don't feel too bad. It's just that at the moment I feel a bit like the bike in that I need to get 100% out of myself too.
Crash.net:
How strong is the factory input in the team?
Alex Lowes:
Well, if you look at Kawasaki for example, they've got no MotoGP team and this is their number 1 goal. Yamaha's number 1 goal is of course MotoGP so they 're spread a bit more. They've got quite a reserved approach in that it's all very methodical, testing and trying. Which is sometimes the worst thing when you're a rider and want everything now.

It's a lot more support than I've ever had but everything has to go through Japan whereas in the past we've been able to get things done, change things or chop something off you don't want immediately - it was easier to make something happen. In the end though I think the Yamaha approach will take us further.
Crash.net:
So it's onwards and upwards to Aragon?
Alex Lowes:
Yeah, as I said there are some good changes and upgrades on the bike for then and I know the team have been working hard on it.

Unfortunately we only have 1 days practice before the race now and that makes setting up a new bike a bit of a challenge. I think that the new 2 day race format may make it a little difficult for us because we've got no data for the Yamaha at Aragon. Previously we had 2 nights to work on things and you can achieve so much in that extra time but this year we have to go racing after 1. I think that our bike will be better in race 2.

Also we've got that long straight there and our bike isn't quite there with horsepower but that should be made up for by the first two thirds of the track which should be great for us. It's a track I feel comfortable on though.
Crash.net:
Lastly, I guess you were watching Sam making his start in Moto2, were you shouting at the television?
Alex Lowes:
Well Sam, did jump the start and the rest is what it is.

The rules have changed this year saying that if you start, stop and don't take an advantage then it should be OK. As far as I saw he got a horrendous start into 6th or 7th, did a great turn 1 and 2 and got some positions back but he had a ride through alert on his dash by the 3rd or 4th corner. I just don't see how they can evaluate that quickly as to whether he got an advantage or not particularly as he'd started into 7th from 2nd. If they were that quick for Sam, what about Morbidelli?

Obviously something changed, regardless of what they're saying or not saying. When 8 of the best riders in the world make a jump start together, there's something going on, these riders know what's what regardless of what's moving around them.

You usually don't look at the light above you anyway because you're too far forward so you look at the light on the pit wall on the right and maybe that flickered a bit. Either way he can take some positives from a great result given the difficulties. My opinion for what it's worth though is that they should have red flagged the race and restarted.

But that's Sam for you, he's always a bit keen!
Crash.net:
Thanks Alex
Alex Lowes:
No problems.

 

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