The dream start to his first WSB season continued for Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) as he pushed his way to the top of the first day’s time sheets in the new-look qualifying.
After the first two of three free practice sessions (which now count towards qualifying places) Lowes was top with a 1’31.100, slower than the best testing times which were done in perfect conditions a couple of days ago, but already under the lap record from 2013.
Alex Lowes: “Today was good! The wind was really bad and affecting the bike a lot, but we still made some progress in certain areas. I’m looking forward to going out tomorrow and confirming that it is definitely better when the weather’s more favourable. I really like Phillip Island; when a track is as windy as it’s been today it is hard to enjoy it, but I think it’s a great track, and I’m looking forward to the racing here. I still need to work hard to see if we can be in a good position for tomorrow and the race on Sunday, we have a lot of refinements still to do with the electronics and the suspension so we’ll put our heads together tonight and see what we can improve for tomorrow.”
Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing) was only 0.037 seconds behind after day one, with Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team) 0.105 seconds from Lowes.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) was the top Kawasaki rider in fourth, with Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda) fifth and Eugene Laverty sixth, 0.348 seconds from his precocious new team-mate Lowes.
Tom Sykes: “I think today I am quite happy and relaxed. We had a good test a few days ago and the plan for here was always to build more of a package for Phillip Island. We know it is something outside our normal box and today there were quite poor conditions. Having said that I am happy with the end result, for many reasons, without going into details. Let us assess our package tomorrow in – hopefully – less windy conditions. Considering it was PI and in windy conditions I was quite happy with our lap time today.”
Leon Haslam was a strong eighth and 0.433 seconds down on his Pata Honda.
Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team) survived a scary and high altitude highside over the top of the lip at Lukey Heights, landing hard on his back, head and wrist, but escaping with being a little dazed. He was ninth overall on day one. The top 11 riders were within a second of each other.
The top Evo bike was the Ducati Althea Panigale of Niccolo Canepa, in 12th place, behind all the factory bikes except the still-developing MV Agusta, a privateer BMW from Imre Toth and the EBR Buells. Geoff May took his EBR vee-twin to within 3.540 seconds of the best day one time, which was real progress compared to the recent testing results on a bike which still carries a host of stock components. May was 20th from 24 riders, 23 of whom met the qualifying standard of 107% of the fastest rider.
In the Supersport class Kenan Sofuoglu was a clear leader on day one, some 0.645 seconds ahead of second fastest man, Britain’s Kevin Coghlan (DMC Panavto Yamaha). Graeme Gowland took his Smiths Triumph to 15th place out of 25 riders. Fraser Rogers was 24th on his Complus SMS Racing Honda.
Final practice and the new two-stage Superpole takes place on Saturday.