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24 Helmikuu 2024

Lowes Fourth In Aussie Season Opener

Alex Lowes put in a competitive race-long effort to finish fourth in the opening race of the 2024 WorldSBK Championship at Phillip Island, which was a planned two-part, 20-lap contest. Axel Bassani’s first ever WorldSBK race for KRT saw him finish 12th.

Prior to the opening race of the weekend the first Superpole qualifying session took place to allocate final grid positions for Race One and Sunday’s short Superpole Race. Lowes was in strong form in qualifying, setting a best lap of 1’28.239 to lead the field for a time, until two riders went marginally faster on the final minutes of the session.

Lowes’ third place in qualifying placed him on the front row of the grid. His team-mate Axel Bassani was 15th in Superpole.

In the opening race, held in two parts with a mandatory rear tyre change in the middle, Lowes was in contention for the podium places throughout. Stopping for tyres at the same moment as the other riders contesting the top three places Lowes and his team timed the pitstop perfectly, avoiding a potential pit intervention time penalty.

Lowes’ most direct late race rival, Toprak Razgatlioglu, was penalised for making too fast a pit stop, promoting Alex to eventual fourth after crossing the line in fifth place.

Axel had a tough task to try and make it into the top points scoring positions after qualifying on the fifth row of the grid. Eager to make up early places he attempted to pass Remy Gardner on the inside at the MG hairpin and the two riders touched, with Gardner falling. Axel was subsequently penalised with a long-lap penalty, ensuring he would finish no higher than 12th despite almost matching his best qualifying time during the race.

The ten-lap WorldSBK Superpole Race will take place at 13.00 local time on Sunday 25 February, with the second two-part 20-lap ‘long’ race starting at 16.00.

Alex Lowes, stated: “We got the most we could out of the bike, which was the target. I am really happy with how we managed the race but in the last sector of the circuit, the last two corners and onto the straight, I lost everything. Over 20-laps it was so hard to catch them back up. You can only go so fast into Turn One. But, in terms of how I was riding and how I was managing the bike, there was not a lot more we could do. To finish fifth over the line, and then fourth after a penalty was given to Toprak, means it was a good start to the year. The team did a good job, we had a clean pitstop and a clean race. I had some argy-bargy with Toprak - we know how aggressive he is - and I tried to pass him at the end. I did not know he had been given a penalty at that stage so I tried to cut back on him in the last corner. I was enjoying the battle with him to be honest. He hit me hard at Turn Four, and it took my hand off the handlebar. I knew it was Toprak. I enjoy racing with him, but every race you have two or three contacts. Today we had the pace we expected to have and maybe at the end of the first part of the race 1’28 lap times were a bit quicker than I expected. I have to be happy with the first race, I did the best I could, and we have two more tries on Sunday.”

Axel Bassani, stated: “I have not a lot to stay about Superpole but it was not so good. In the race I think I made a really good start but it was not easy to try to overtake some other riders. I made a mistake and put down Remy Gardner. It was not my intention, but it happened. After some laps my pace was good but then I had to do a long lap penalty and lost me a lot of time and four track positions. The first half of the race was really good but when I changed the tyre and went back out again it was more difficult to ride the bike. I had a lot of movement. We have to understand that because if we can ride the second half of the race like the first half of the race we can do a good job.”

Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was 18th in the opening race of the year, having qualified 20th in Superpole.