2015’s penultimate race saw Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes power through to take two top-ten finishes at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in France, despite his high-speed crash in qualifying yesterday.
A wet track greeted the Superbike World Championship for the early warm-up but a problem with Marcus Reiterberger’s wildcard BMW towards the end of the 15 minutes session left a covering of oil on the already slippery surface – bringing out the red flags and delaying the first race by 15 minutes. With the race declared wet, and reduced to 19-laps, the question of tyre-life hung in the air – the rain had abated but how quickly the evolving surface would dry remained an unknown.
Yesterday’s crash in Superpole had left Lowes with little wet knowledge of his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R, so he tentatively judged his feel as the lights went out. The British racer’s pace improving as his confidence in the conditions grew, Lowes concluded the opening contest in a strong eighth position and with the weather brightening he was looking forward to the second race.
The sun shone brightly as the afternoon grid formed, but the wrong choice of tyre proved costly for Lowes, making challenging work of the final 21-lap race. Dropping down the order in the early laps, he struggled to pass his competitors without running wide, but true to style he dug deep to regain the top-10 and claim 14 points overall from the day’s efforts.
Randy de Puniet concluded a frustrating home race with just one 18th place finish from the afternoon battle, having struggled to gel his Suzuki GSX-R1000 with the Magny-Cours track. The Frenchman was keen to perform in front of his native fans but a lack of grip in the wet race brought about an early retirement on lap 11, after previously pitting for a new rear tyre failed to improve his situation. The second race looked more promising as de Puniet diced with the mid-pack but it was ultimately not to be as he crossed the line out of the points.
World Champion Jonathan Rea proved Jerez was a misnomer as he returned to the top step of the podium in both today’s wet and dry conditions, while his Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes and Ducati challenger Chaz Davies continued their fight for the runner’s up spot claiming a second place apiece in front of the 23,000 passionate Gallic-fans.
Lowes and de Puniet now have their sights firmly set on the 2015 finale, as Voltcom Crescent Suzuki prepares for the journey east, to Qatar’s capital Doha, for the concluding round of the Superbike World Championship under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit on Sunday October 19th.
“Tyre performance was the main story for us today. We chose the hard tyre as we had struggled to make the soft option work over long distance, and when we changed the bike settings to run the soft, it created problems in other areas. We were running about half a second down on our FP3 pace, but as the track was quicker today that ultimately dropped us a second a lap. It’s disappointing as we had been running top-six for the majority of the weekend, but eighth and 10th in the changing conditions is at least an improvement from last year! Now we have the night race, and the season finale to look forward to, so we will get our heads down and look forward to Qatar.”
Randy de Puniet:
“It was a really, really difficult weekend. I’m really disappointed because it was my home race. In race one the feeling was bad, I had no entry-grip and I locked the rear so I decided to stop, change the tyre and make some adjustments but it was the same. In race two I started ok and was in the back of the group for the top-10 but I was over the limit, again locked the engine-brake on some corners and finally I went straight-on. I changed the mapping but in the end I finished 18th. I am really disappointed but I hope I can finish well in Qatar so we will concentrate on this.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“It was really a disappointing race day at Magny-Cours, the only positive being that Alex was able to compete at all after such a big crash and impact yesterday. The difficult wet qualifying performance yesterday and the crash itself meant that Alex needed to feel his way in to the level of grip in the first race and once he’d done that he made impressive improvements to eighth place. The dry race was an opportunity to do well as Alex had been in the top-six all weekend in every dry session, but the bottom line is we selected the wrong rear tyre and tenth place was the absolute maximum that could be achieved. We need to learn from this and move forward.
“Randy also had a tough day, and while he didn’t have any issues with the bike, the pace was simply not there. Let’s look forward to Qatar in two weeks’ time and we will do our best as a team to make full potential of the bike’s performance.”
Magny-Cours – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Race One: 1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 36’29.856: 2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +4.711: 3. Sylvain Guintoli (Honda) +14.683: 4. Michael van der Mark (Honda) +22.772: 5. Leon Camier (MV Agusta) +30.136: 8. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +39.034. DNF Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki).
Magny-Cours – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Race Two: 1. Rea 34’40.147: 2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +2.848: 3. Sykes +6.551: 4. van der Mark +10.202: 5. Leon Haslam (Aprilia) +12.921: 10. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +32.799. 18. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1’15.533.
World Championship Classification: 1. Rea 528: 2. Davies 383: 3. Sykes 367: 4. Haslam 297: 5. Torres 222. 9. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 135. 18. Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) 39.