Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s spirits lifted at Donington Park today at round six of the eni FIM World Superbike Championship as Alex Lowes fought his way to a double sixth-place finish in the afternoon’s two races.
Dressed for the UK round with patriotically-designed Shark helmet and RST leathers, Lowes put-in a determined effort on his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R in the opening Superbike race – taking fifth place from Ducati’s Davide Giugliano on the fourth lap and matching the pace of the podium runners for the majority of the 23-laps. Holding the all-British top-five position for much of the race, a lack-of-grip in the closing stages eventually saw the local racer succumb to the approaching BMW of Ayrton Badovini, crossing the line in sixth for 10 well-deserved points.
A strong start to the second race also saw Lowes hard on the back of the leading pack, fighting his way to fourth and then third place by the close of lap four. His podium aspirations may have been short lived, thanks to the factory Ducati paring of Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano, but the Suzuki racer continued to hold on to his top-six position, claiming a further haul of 10-points and elevating himself up to eighth position overall in the Championship standings.
Starting in 18th on the grid, after a difficult qualifying session yesterday, Randy de Puniet brought his Suzuki GSX-R1000 home in 14th in both of the day’s races. Continuing to struggle with engine braking, he ran off the track on two occasions during the late afternoon encounter but the Frenchman dug deep, securing four championship points and promoting him up a place in the rider standings.
A surprisingly dry, but cold Donington Park hosted a 30,000 strong crowd as Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes recreated his 2014 visit with a double victory. His team-mate Jonathan Rea claimed second from Davies in both of the day’s battles.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki now returns to its UK base this evening to begin preparations for the seventh round of World Superbike competition, at Portimao in Portugal, in a fortnight’s time.
“I’m happy enough with today as the boys – and the bike! - worked well and I did my best to be as competitive as possible. I was struggling with grip in both races and with some confidence on corner entry which lost me some time, but the second race felt better than the first. We’ve made some big steps forward, so now we’ve got something to build on to keep improving further for the next race. I did all I could and the team did a fantastic job, and as ever the support here was great. I always enjoy racing at Donington and to fight a bit with the top guys, get two consistent finishes and some solid points here was good”
Randy de Puniet:
“The bike has improved a lot but still not an easy weekend. After a good start on Friday, yesterday we struggled to change gear and this morning unfortunately I broke one engine during warm-up so I was not able to find the best setting for the race. In race one I still had some downshifting issues and the engine brake was far from perfect so I finished 14th. In race two the gear change was a little better but after seven laps I struggled with the engine brake and I ran off the track twice. Everyone in the team has been giving their best and we were unlucky with the engine this morning, so I really hope now we can improve more in Portimao.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Donington has been a positive step forward and we’ve finally turned a corner with the Marelli electronics system - the bike is responding to changes in the way it should. The basic operation of the engine is more stable and easier for the engineers to manage and so finally we have been able to begin working on more normal race weekend details. In that respect this has really felt like the first proper test with this system, as over the last three events the team’s only focus has been to try and get the bike functioning.
“Given the lack of set up time and lack of race rhythm we’ve had since March, Alex’s two sixth places today were great results, backed up by a solid fifth on the grid. Taking race two as an example, we were only beaten by the factory Kawasaki’s, factory Ducati’s, and Leon on the factory Aprilia – so we have to put the result into context. Congratulations to Alex and to the whole team across both sides of the garage for making this step and for keeping focused and positive. Now we can start to work on understanding how to make the bike faster over race distance and as Alex’s confidence regrows, we will be looking for these types of results and better.
“Two 14th places for Randy isn’t something to be excited about and he’s disappointed, but it’s two points scoring finishes, which again is a step forward by comparison to the last races and we will keep doing everything we can to improve the bike for him so that he can improve his pace.”
Donington – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race One: 1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 33’59.865: 2. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) +3.743: 3. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +15.140: 4. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +18.304: 5. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) +20.362: 6. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +20.848. 14. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1’06.993.
Donington – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race Two: 1. Sykes 33’52.649: 2. Rea +9.772: 3. Davies +12.304: 4. Haslam +16.601: 5. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +15.779: 6. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +23.136. 14. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1’24.434.