Alex Lowes Reflects on his Victorious Suzuka 8 Hours Experience
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK rider Alex Lowes swapped championships and continents last month to compete in the most celebrated Superbike race of the season, the 39th “Coca-Cola Zero” Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race. Braving the peak of the Japanese summer heat, Lowes joined last year’s victors Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pol Espargaro as the Yamaha Factory Racing Team looked to contest, and retain, its title with a second successive win – a feat they achieved with finesse and one that Lowes will always be proud of.
“It was an awesome experience to compete in the Suzuka 8 Hours with the Yamaha Factory Racing Team. I really enjoyed the whole week, both on and off the bike. It’s an amazing event and I’m honoured to now say that I’ve won it. After a difficult year in WorldSBK, it really does mean a lot to me.
“It can sometimes be challenging to swap, not just championships, but the whole structure around you but I found it quite easy to be honest. The Yamaha Factory Racing Team ran like clockwork so it was easy to just jump in and work with them from the first day of testing. I formed a good relationship straight away with my teammates as they are both great guys and we were all there with the same goal, to work hard and determined to go for the win.
“Endurance racing is obviously totally different compared to what I am used to, not just in terms of race distance, but in working closely as a team and sharing the bike and any track time between the three riders. We all tried to embrace that because that’s how you get the best results in that type of competition. We were lucky that we all felt comfortable with the same setting on the YZF-R1, which was a big positive.”
You are no stranger to the 8 Hours having already appeared at the event last year, how did this experience differ to your Suzuka debut?
“I really enjoyed my debut last year and this year I knew what to expect so naturally you feel better prepared. It’s an event and circuit I really enjoy and seem to go well at. I knew I had already proved I could do a good job last year so it was just about doing the best I could and the best for Yamaha.
“Having three race stints on the YZF-R1 was good for me. Honestly, after the first three hours we had all done a great job with our first runs on the bike and we already had a big lead, which allowed us to take our time and be smart. The night session was something I enjoyed as it was a new experience and you are so focused on the job in hand that it isn’t too difficult to get used to either. Obviously the hardest part was keeping my concentration, knowing we had such a lead in the final hour. It’s normal to feel some pressure but I think I handled it well, and due to having the big gap I made sure I enjoyed the last 50 minutes. It isn’t often you can be on a factory bike at the Suzuka 8 Hours with the opportunity to cruise home for the victory so honestly I took it all in and enjoyed it, I was definitely smiling!
“Suzuka is a completely different race with riders from all championships. Of course my main priority is obviously WorldSBK and we have had some bad luck this year so I think riding another version of the YZF-R1 and having fun has given me some fresh motivation heading into the second half of the season. I have learnt a lot in Japan that can benefit me with my riding and also some things I want to try implement in the team for us all to improve. So now honestly I can’t wait to get testing and working towards a strong end to 2016!
“We have a couple of weeks before and between testing so I’m looking forward to relaxing, playing some golf, heading to a couple of Grand Prix to watch my brother Sam and generally chilling out. It’s been a long seven weeks for me, with a lot of traveling, so I will be happy to have some time at home!”
Lowes reunites with Sylvain Guintoli and the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team at Germany’s Lausitzring EuroSpeedway on Wednesday 17th August for the first of two days testing ahead of the WorldSBK Championship’s returning race event on 14-16th September.