Soaring temperatures and a big crowd saw Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes ride to a stunning podium finish as Thailand hosted its debut World Superbike races at the Chang International Circuit this afternoon.
Determined to get a great start with his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R, Lowes took second on the opening lap of the final race, holding the position for the first half against the Aprilia of Leon Haslam. Succumbing on lap eight, he continued his stellar 1’34 pace, to maintain a strong gap throughout the remainder of the action, claiming the third place finish and rounding out the day with a podium celebration.
Having demonstrated blistering consistent pace all weekend, a bad start to Lowes’ opening race initially saw him demoted him to fifth position before quickly advancing hard on the wheels of Tom Sykes’ Kawasaki. Proving somewhat of a roadblock for the next four laps, Lowes took his chance at turn three, regaining his grid position in the hunt for the podium. A mistake on the 12th lap saw the British racer low-side his Suzuki at turn 12 but his determination saw him remount quickly, allowing him to cut back through the pack to finish sixth on the road. A protest from a rival team saw Lowes’ demoted to seventh for allegedly passing under a yellow flag.
Struggling with the new circuit, a determined Randy de Puniet battled to 10th by the mid-point of his first Thai race before a last lap mistake dropped him to 13th. The afternoon’s disappointment continued in the concluding action as the Frenchman retired his GSX-R1000 on lap six, taking three points from the second round and leaving him 15th in the standings.
Jonathan Rea claimed both race victories and fastest lap awards aboard his Kawasaki in front of a 50,000-strong crowd at the new Chang circuit in Buriram. Lowes’ podium contributed to his day’s haul of 25 points, promoting him to seventh in the Championship after four races.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s next weekend of competition will herald the start of the Europe season, as the eni FIM Superbike World Championship heads to Aragon in Spain on Sunday April 12th.
“I’m really happy to be back on the podium - it’s a third place but for us it means a lot after Phillip Island! It really should have been two podiums today, I just made a small mistake because I was determined to catch Leon and get second. As a team we’ve all worked so hard but the result is that we are back on the podium and back in the front group, and if we can keep a bit more consistency like this for the rest of the year then it will be a great season for us.
“I don’t really know about the yellow flag penalty, it’s a bit of a shame - Salom went off on the Astroturf at turn four so he shut off and Troy and I obviously passed him and when we arrived at the next corner there was a yellow flag! To be honest I didn’t think much about it. It’s disappointing as two top-sixes would have been good but it is what it is.
“So, one mistake away from it being a really great weekend but I’m really happy with race two, I was quite aggressive at the start but I rode a steady race and it’s a great way to thank the team for their hard work. Now I can concentrate on keeping it going for the next round in Aragon!”
Randy de Puniet:
“It was difficult for me from the first day; we have struggled with the braking and tried many things. The first race was going well because after 12 laps I was 10th and close to the top-six and even though I wasn’t as confident as I had hoped, I was improving my lap times a lot. After lap 12 I struggled with the braking and could only finish 13th.
“Unfortunately in race two we had an engine issue. We need to forget this race and start from zero in Aragon. The only positive points are I am in good shape and impatient to ride at Calafat in 10 days to try the new Marelli system, because every step is important for us. The team worked really hard and it was great for Alex to finish on the podium so we know we can do it, now we just need to put everything together.”
Paul Denning - Team Manager:
“After showing great potential in Philip island and suffering a really difficult race day, it’s been very positive to reconfirm the potential of the 2015 Suzuki GSX-R, and of course Alex himself, this weekend in Thailand. I wouldn’t have said the track suited the bike particularly well but we were fast all weekend, qualified well and aside for a very small mistake in the first race, should have been on the podium in both races. Congratulations to the whole team but especially to Alex, who is only in his second year of international competition but is starting to look like a serious contender.
“On Randy’s side there are unfortunately a lot less positives, it was a tough weekend from start to finish and we need to reset in Aragon and go forward from there. We all know he is a very high-quality rider, but there are some different characteristics to the Superbike and there is some more adapting to be done. We will get there, and as a team we are 100% behind him.”
Chang– eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race One: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 31’33.852: 2. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) + 6.329: 3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +8.183: 4. Jordi Torres (Aprilia) + 8.513: 5. Sylvain Guintoli (Honda) +20.502: 7. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) + 22.249.13. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +41.722.
Chang – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race Two: 1. Rea 31’31.173: 2. Haslam +4.946: 3. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +8.701: 4. Torres +10.628: 5. Sykes +14.326: Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) DNF.
World Championship Classification: 1. Rea 95: 2. Haslam 85: 3. Sykes 50: 4. Guintoli 41: 5. Torres 39 7. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 32. 15. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 12.