TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands will host the third round of the 2023 Superbike World Championship this weekend. Running world class motorcycle races going back to 1955, the 2.831-mile, 18-turn circuit oozes Grand Prix motorcycle racing history and Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK racer Alex Lowes looks to be making some more of his own there.
Lowes comes off a mixed bag of results — at the season-launching Philip Island round in Australia he failed to finish in both main races, yet earned a fourth place position in the sprint race. One week later at the Mandalika circuit in Indonesia, Lowes scored his first podium finish of the year, albeit result offset by a 10th- and 13th-place finishes in the main races. Not precisely the sort of results the Englishman was looking for, but Lowes, who was sixth in the 2022 standings, is optimistic about the near and immediate future.
“Yeah, the start of the season has not been too good,” admits Lowes. “We were at those flyaway races early in the year in February and we were not quite ready with a few small changes on the bike, but we’ve just had two important tests and tracks and I really enjoy this Assen track. I’m really optimistic, actually.
“Obviously in Australia we had a very mixed weekend. The weather played its part. In Indonesia we had a little bit of bad luck with the last race, but the podium in the second race was excellent. That track is one of our tougher tracks because the hot and slippery conditions are not the best for our bike, so the podium was good. It means that we can do it. This track here at Assen should suit us a lot better.”
Recent World Superbike tests have proven to be positive for the Kawasaki effort, Aragon and Barcelona utilized to dial-in the bike and to optimize its settings and performance potential.
“Yeah, we made some major changes at the last tests,” he notes. “The way I look at it is that we are getting a lot out of the bike. The bike has not changed massively for a lot of years and the team do a very good job, so we’re already getting maximum potential from the bike. To try and squeeze a little bit more out of it, sometimes you go the wrong way because anything that we would try that would be, let’s say, an easier fix, the guys have already tried it.
“We’ve gone back to what we know and working hard and maximizing the settings that we have and that gave me some confidence at the last test. Obviously, you are always going forward and trying to improve, but we’ve gone back to our base set that worked so well for us at the end of last year. I felt good at the very last test we did and I’m expecting to feel good here.
“You know, there are a lot of bikes that have been newer models over the last, let’s say, four years and top speed is something that we know is not a strength of ours and when you’re bike is a little bit down on speed, it makes it hard to race,” Lowes concedes. “You need to have good qualifying, a good start and be out of the way of the fight because when your bike is a little bit slow, it makes it hard to pass. There are other guys and other manufacturers that are doing a good job and brought a lot of speed to the championship and we need to try and hunt them down a little bit in that area. It’s not an easy fix to make the bike go quicker. I need to stop eating chocolate so I’ll lose some weight and the bike will be faster in the straights!”
Currently slotted in at 11th in points with only the Australian and Indonesian rounds run thus far in 2023, Lowes realizes there is a long and winding road ahead of him before the checkered flag comes down on the season in October.
“Yes, it’s early on and the first two rounds are a little bit strange with the two flyaway races. We didn’t really have a chance to show our true potential. I know the bike well now over the last few years and I’m encouraged. I’m really enjoying my riding and I’m enjoying myself at the minute, so this normally means that I’m going to go faster. Let’s hope for the podium this weekend.”
Right there at Lowes’ flank will be teammate and six-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea, a racer Lowes has no problem tail-gunning for,
“My relationship with Jonny is good,” says Lowes. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what he has done. Obviously, the first person that you want to beat is your teammate. That’s not easy when he’s a six-time world champion, but I feel like I’m as close to him in performance as I’ve been in the four years that I’ve been here with the team. I’ve shown at some tracks and in some conditions I have been faster than him. That normally means that you’re doing a pretty good job because he’s one of the best that we’ve ever had in World Superbike.
“The championship is a bit more competitive now,” he reckons. “The other teams are doing a good job and it is not as easy to win. We need to use our experience of being together here in the team to get the most out of every weekend, but it’s good and it’s nice to be a part of the team.”