A dramatic flag-to-flag race one saw Alex Lowes finish in 10th position on his Voltcom Crescent Suzuki at round seven of the eni FIM World Superbike Championship at Portimao today as an unexpected downpour saw the first mid-race pit stop of 2015.
Starting from the head of row two, after his impressive qualifying performance yesterday, Lowes continued his strong form with his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R in the early laps of the day’s opening race, holding fifth position. A mistake at turn five saw the British racer leave the track, relegating him to 11th and amplifying his challenge. An unexpected deluge of rain sent the entire field into the pits for wet tyres with five laps to go but as ever Lowes’ determination was evident, heading back out to cross the line in the top-10. With bad luck returning for the second race, Lowes ran wide at the first corner, demoting his strong start to 14th. His race pace proving consistent enough to defend but not to advance and he concluded the afternoon in 13th, his day’s haul of 9 Championship points bringing his overall total to 80.
The challenging weekend continued for Randy de Puniet as he struggled with his Suzuki Superbike’s power delivery. Advancing from his starting position of 16th on the grid, the Frenchman finished race one in 13th place. However, a change in settings for the second outing saw him battle to consolidate rather than improve, finishing the afternoon’s contest as it began.
Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea returned to the top step of the podium for both of the day’s celebrations as the conditions fluctuated between warm and cloudy to wet, before reverting to the 30°C norm of the previous days.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki will continue on at the Portuguese track for a further day tomorrow to participate in the official Championship test.
“Our qualifying position yesterday flattered us and was really a case of holding my breath and doing the best laps I could. I knew I had the race pace for around eighth today, but I had some bad luck with a software fault causing the bike to push me and I ran off the track in both races. So, we’re still unfortunately having issues with the electronics. Hopefully the test tomorrow will allow us to find out why it is being inconsistent and move forward in the right direction.”
Randy de Puniet:
“It was a tough day today. I was struggling with a connection problem this morning which we were trying to work on but the bike was very aggressive. I have never felt this problem before for the whole weekend so it was strange. We made some adjustments for the afternoon but during the second race it was worse and I had big vibration on the brakes so I could not brake hard. I am really hoping that we will find a solution during the test tomorrow so we can make a step before Misano.”
Paul Denning - Team Manager:
“Performance and results wise, a very disappointing day here in Portimao. Alex’s qualifying performance yesterday both on race and qualifying tyres possibly created some unrealistic expectation but in race conditions we simply struggled with outright performance and consistency with the bike. Alex committed and gave his absolute best but really for him the only positive today was the performance of the bike in wet conditions where we were properly competitive and the GSX-R felt nice.
“Randy also suffered with similar problems and the only good thing is that we have a full day’s testing tomorrow to try to work out where we needed to be in terms of overall bike performance – not just the electronic control strategies but also chassis balance and the overall settings of the bike – so we can take some steps forward before we get to Misano.”
Portimao – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Race One: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 37’10.092: 2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +9.384: 3. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +13.753: 4. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +27.818: 5. Sylvain Guintoli (Honda) +28.141: 10. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1’01.388. 13. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1’39.537.
Portimao – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Race Two: 1. Rea 34’33.783: 2. Giugliano +5.416: 3. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +6.689: 4. Davies +10.445: 5. Michael vd Mark (Honda) +14.122. 13. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +34.252. 16. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1’03.200.
World Championship Classification: 1. Rea 330: 2. Sykes 206: 3. Haslam 199: 4. Davies 184: 5. Torres 131: 10. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 80. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 22.