“I want to try challenge for the World SuperBike Championship properly and be a proper contender to Johnny Rea,” answers Alex Lowes when asked about what he’d like to see in a crystal ball. “It looks like Jonathan’s going to win the title again for the fifth time in a row. Clearly, he’s one of the best SuperBike riders ever, so we need to try and hunt him down and stop him from winning.”
Now deep in the throes of his sixth season in the World SuperBike Championship, the 28 year-old Pata Yamaha WorldSBK racer walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to contending for one of the most prestigious titles in all of global motorcycle racing. Currently third in the globetrotting WorldSBK tour, Lowes is both content and enthused with his recent form and has been using the WorldSBK summer break to regroup and prepare for the home stretch run which will reach the finish line at the Losail circuit in Qatar in late October.
“I’m at home on the couch and I’m recovering because I’ve had a small operation to fix some tendinitis problems in my wrist,” says Lowes from his home in the United Kingdom. “I had the operation the day after Suzuka. I’ve been recovering the last few days, but that’s all good now. I just started some light training today and I’ve got a few weeks until we test in Portugal.
“This break we have is long. I’d like some more races on our championship calendar. Obviously, we don’t like having long breaks, because we get bored as motorcycle racers, don’t we? I’s been good this year, because we did Suzuka and then I had that little operation I just mentioned. But I’d rather have more races and I think everybody would rather have more races, because a six or seven week break for us is just a bit too much. If I had a couple of kids then I might have something to do during the break, but right now it’s just me and Corrine [Lowes’ wife]. I’m bored.”
The summer has played out well for the native of Lincoln, England; strong and encouragingly consistent WorldSBK results placing him among the elite in the fray, while a spirited runner-up finish in the 42nd Coca-Cola Suzuka 8 Hours with Yamaha Factory Racing Team comrades Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga also bolstered confidence.
“We won the last three years before at Suzuka and we expected to win again, but Kawasaki did a good job this year,” says Lowes. “After seven hours there were only a few seconds separating the top three teams, and I was pushing. It was a great race to be a part of and obviously we came up a little bit short, but this year I really enjoyed riding there, and the team did a good job, and I did good in my stints. I enjoyed it. It was a good weekend.”
How does Lowes compare the extended Suzuka eight-hour endurance race with the somewhat abbreviated, sprint-themed WorldSBK races?
“Now, at Suzuka, you feel like you’re pushing just as hard as you do in a World Superbike race in every stint,” he says. “Each stint with the Yamaha with fuel is about one hour and two minutes, and honestly, you feel like you’re pushing as hard as you can for the full hour. It’s quite intense. Obviously, there are a lot more things that you have to take into consideration at Suzuka – pit stops, riding with a couple of different riders, you have to make the machine right for everybody – but I enjoy it. It’s a different challenge and it’s just one race during the year, so it’s nice to do something a little bit different.”
Giving it all he’s got to try and chase down aforementioned championship leaders Rea and Bautista, Lowes, who has been gaining critical mass with a host of top six finishes at Misano, Donington and Laguna Seca, is relatively content.
“The season, honestly, it’s been really good,” he says. “I had a bad weekend in Jerez, and I had one bad race at Misano where I crashed out of the lead. That was unfortunate. But yeah, I think it has been a solid season, and it’s been my best season to date. I feel like I’m riding really well, and I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s been a positive season for me.”
And of the final four races that will run at Portimao, Magny Cours, El Villicum and Losail?
“Portugal is always a great track; Magny Course in France, normally the weather can be a little bit dodgy there; then we’ve got Argentina, which was the first time last year, so it’s quite a new venue on the calendar, but the El Villicum track was really interesting,” he says. “And Qatar at the end of the year is one of my favorite events. Yeah, the final four tracks are good, and I’m looking forward to really getting stuck in and I certainly want to try and win a race by the end of the year, so that’s my target.
“From here on in, my plan is to basically just treat every weekend individually and try and get the best results possible. I want to be trying for the podium every weekend, and I certainly want to try and win races. I’m just going to approach every weekend with a fresh attitude, and if I’m fast and do my best in each race, then the result at the end of the season will take care of myself. That’s my target: To just try and do my best on each weekend. I really want to try challenge for the World Superbike Championship and fight with Johnny Rea and [Alvaro] Bautista. Bautista has been strong this year, as well. That’s my target, and I feel like I’ve been riding good enough, and I’m improving, and I’ve still got a lot of motivation.”
Now in his fourth consecutive season with Yamaha, Lowes is content to hold station and work with the Japanese manufacturer to fortify the “4-stroke, DOHC, forward inclined parallel 4-cylinder, four valves” YZF-R1 to get him where he feels he needs to be.
“This year has been a good step because Yamaha have just come with a new bike that looks really good,” enthuses Lowes. “Also, next year Kawasaki has a new bike. Yamaha is willing to work hard. The new R1 is being launched in September in Europe. We obviously launched it in Laguna Seca for the race weekend there and there are some small differences, but to be honest, the chassis is quite good. We just needed some upgrades on the engine and the standard bike has an engine that is quite a lot different, so hopefully next year we can have a step forward from the bike and properly challenge to win each weekend, and to challenge for the title.”
Lowes continues on to say that it is not only Yamaha and its WorldSBK program incessantly looking for more speed and high performance to further enhance results, but himself as well.
“There are a couple areas in my riding that I want to work on,” he says. “From a technical point of view, I want to improve a bit on the braking. I always seem to be on the limit of brakes. I’m going to work on that this winter, but not during the season because if you try to change your style a bit during the season, it’s quite tough. Apart from that, it’s just normal work. The team and I are looking to understand more, and to get more experience to get more out of the bike. We’re all fast in World Superbike, so you’re trying to get some advantage with your bike or working better on the race weekends with your team, it can really make a big difference coming into each race. That’s the way I’m thinking at the minute, mate.”