Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes rode to a stellar ninth place finish in the second WSBK race at Assen TT Circuit today in The Netherlands after the morning’s race had concluded prematurely in spectacular style.
Strong starts in both the day’s 21-lap races had seen Lowes circulating in fifth, before succumbing to the engine brake setting issue that had hampered his weekend. His impressive pace – setting a fastest lap on his third revolution and continuing to run with the front group for the first six laps - in the afternoon’s contest highlighted the progress made with the Yoshimura-powered machines. However, his four-place drop due to running wide at Turn One acknowledged there is more work to be done. Despite this, the British racer continued his charge at the Cathedral of Speed, progressing to eighth for the concluding six laps, and holding-off the Ducati of Xavi Fores before he was caught on the final revolution to take ninth, and seven Championship points.
The morning’s battle had begun in a similar vein, with Lowes making a great start before being relegated to 13th on the second lap. A fairly solitary and uneventful mid-race looked to be granting him the valuable information needed to continue the team’s progression with the GSX-R’s new systems, before another unfortunate, but seemingly harmless, run-on at the first corner on lap nine became an unexpected accident. De Puniet – running three places behind Lowes – crashed under braking into Haarbocht on the same lap, collecting his team-mate in the aftermath.
The Crescent team quickly responded by preparing the second race bike for the afternoon encounter, but the Frenchman’s day did not improve. With the continuing set-up issues apparent from the start, de Puniet retired the GSX-R1000 on the sixth lap.
An expectant 50,000 strong crowd saw Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea claim both fourth round victories to extend his lead on the Championship, with local hero Michael van der Mark (Honda) securing his debut WSBK podium with a double third.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki now heads back to the UK for two weeks of continued evaluation and preparation ahead of the Acerbis Italian round at Imola on Sunday May 10th.
“Today was always going to be difficult but I gave it my best right to the end. It’s our first top-10 with the new system which is positive, especially as no one else crashed so it’s a genuine result. We ran strongly for the first few laps of race two, until I got caught-out entering turn one, so obviously still need to improve, but we’ve all done our best so we can be happy with that. Thanks to all the team for working so hard, we’ve got some good information to go on now, so we will continue to push forward together and see what we can achieve at Imola.”
Randy de Puniet:
“I don’t know what to say, we have struggled in every session for the whole weekend. During race one I was running quite well and close to Alex after his mistake. My lap-time was good but I was at the limit because I was unable to stop the bike how I need to. I crashed at turn one and hit Alex as I hit the gravel. Luckily we are not injured but the frame of my bike was completely destroyed and we needed to use the spare bike for the second race. As I had never used this bike before we still had problems with engine brake, connection and front suspension, I was running 16th/ 17th and was not confident, so I decided to stop instead of risking crashing again.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“We have made some limited progress with the new ECU system this weekend but we still face some fundamental issues, particularly with the engine brake control, that have made it very difficult for the riders to race rather than simply ride.
“For Alex, making smooth laps on his own in practice has generated some competitive lap-times but those have flattered the level of the bike when it comes to being adaptable in racing conditions. The main positives from Assen are that we have moved forward and we understand more about the next steps and priorities, the fact that neither rider was hurt in a very frightening and very scary collision in race one, and Alex’s performance in race two where he ran with the front group until the engine brake issue caught him out into turn one. The way he regrouped and set the sixth fastest lap of the race is another affirmation that when things are right we will be straight back in the fight with the front group.
“Randy made the decision to stop in race two – both riders were under instruction not to take any risks - as we need to get the bike right and we need two fit, motivated riders when that happens. We will be doing absolutely everything in our power to make sure that we use the next two weeks before Imola to arrive in Italy with a properly competitive GSX-R.”
Assen – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race One: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 33’48.898: 2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) + 1.098: 3. Michael van der Mark (Honda) +4.140: 4. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +4.517: 5. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +6.140. DNF Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki). DNF Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki).
Assen – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race Two: 1. Rea 33’51.013: 2. Davies +0.439: 3. van der Mark +2.831: Haslam +2.992: 5.Sykes +6.508: 9. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +16.402. DNF Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki).
World Championship Classification: 1. Rea 190 : 2. Haslam 140: 3. Davies 123: 4. Sykes 88: 5. Torres 83. 11. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 41. 16. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 15.