Interview: Sam Lowes on his 2017 move to MotoGP

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You must be glad to have your future confirmed and a three year contract with Aprilia in place. What was it that made you decide to spend next year in Moto2 rather than move directly to the MotoGP team as was originally speculated?
There are lots of reasons to it. Initially the plan was to go straight there. We sat down and got a good plan together. Maybe we have some unfinished business here in Moto2. This year started off well and every race has been quite good. There has been plenty of positives at every race. There has been moments where we’ve thought, ‘If we had have done this, we could have done that’ but we just need another year to have a proper go at it. I believe if I stayed here with Speed Up I could have a proper go at it. It’ll be nice on a Kalex because it will level the playing field a little bit. This Speed Up bike can win if you get it right. I’m really motivated to try and win and have a really strong year. Obviously know that fact that I have a MotoGP deal already is mega. I get to ride the bike next year with no pressure there. I get to develop the new bike, which is coming from the start of next year.

When did plan to move to MotoGP in ’16 change?
Maybe the Sachsenring or after. It was quite early. The project that is awesome to be involved with is quite a long one. It’s very new for next year. Maybe the new bike was going to come earlier and that’s what it all came down to really. Maybe Bradl doing a good job on the bike and giving great feedback… Maybe they thought having them two riders would be good for them. There were various reasons. In the end the decision was mine. It was made very clear to me that if I wanted to go straight there I could have done. They put it on the table, this option. For me it’s better. It’s three solid years, a chance to try and become world champion and the chance to learn away from all this. That’s a chance that I’ve never had in the past.

Have you confirmed the plan for next year with Aprilia and the number of tests you’ll have on the MotoGP bike?
I don’t know yet. There’s not much point in me riding the bike this year at the Valencia test. The new bike is coming next year so I’ll ride the Kalex in November. We need to sit down and talk about that but I think the plan is to do quite a lot, maybe more than I first thought after talking to them Aprilia last week. That will be good. For me, especially in the first half of the year, I’d like to be focussed on getting a solid start to the year in Moto2 and try and establish myself as a title contender. Saying that riding the bike away from the race weekend is totally different so I know it won’t affect me too much. I’m nearly certain I won’t ride the bike this year. I’ll ride the Gresini Moto2 bike this year.

How important is it to join Gresini for next year and get used to working within the team before moving to MotoGP and will the test team that you work with be your crew for 2017?
It looks like I’ll be testing with the same crew that I’ll use the following season. I think the Moto2 is not separate but it is not the same staff [as the MotoGP team] but it looks like the test team will be. Bonding with the team, fitting in and getting them on my side by doing a solid job next year. Obviously if I go up as a world champion or title contender they’re going to have more belief in me. That’s a nice thing. From what I’ve met of the team they’re great. There is a nice atmosphere and Fausto Gresini is a really nice guy. They made me feel really welcome and I believe in it already which is nice. I can’t wait to get going. Obviously I’ve got a job to do here for the rest of the year. It’s been great to be part of Speed Up and to get into grand prix racing has been mega for me. I’d like to finish on a high. 

Aprilia showed this year with the steps they’ve made with the bike that they have an impressive testing programme in place for MotoGP. What has been your thoughts on their commitment to MotoGP?
I spent a little bit of time in the factory. They talked me through a lot of things and they’re serious about it. They said to me that they can’t fail. They’ve won World Superbike championships and want to be a recognised brand in MotoGP. With all the infrastructure and effort that I can see they’re putting in, it’s nice to be involved in that. If I can be there from the very start with the bike – I’m not saying that they’re developing it around me – it’s going to pay off when I do get to MotoGP.

There were rumours that you might make a wildcard appearance in World Superbike was that ever a possibility?
It’s never been mentioned to me. I spoke at Assen. That was when a lot of this was on the table. I went to the factory. In whole five months that we’ve been speaking I think we talked about World Superbike for about two minutes and that’s because my brother’s there. It’s never even been spoken about. They haven’t mentioned Superbike next year. Their focus is on MotoGP 100 percent, they can’t fail, it’s a great project and they believe in me.

With your future announced it must feel good to be able to focus on racing again but what has been the reaction within Speed Up?
I’ve know about this for a while now. When you get the final touches and it’s done. It’s nice because it closes the book. My team know I’m leaving. It’s a good thing so we can finish strong together. They knew a long time before it was announced. It’s good, everyone knows what’s going on. I don’t think if affected me but it’s been around for a few races. Speed Up have said they’re grateful for what you’ve done, you can talk about it. We’ve done good by each other.

What was Luca Boscoscuro’s reaction to the news?
He said, “Can you use the Speed Up there?”! That was the long and short of it. I’ve never said I need a Kalex to win in Moto2. They’re doing a great job and it’s a great all-round bike. But Speed Up can win in Moto2 for sure. The reason why I’ve gone in this direction is to learn the infrastructure, to learn the Gresini team. I believe they can win the world championship. I believe Speed Up can probably do the same could do the same. It’s nothing against Speed Up. It’s to go three years in their team. If I had no MotoGP contract I’d be on a different Moto2 bike next year. Gresini have won before. It’s great to grow into that. 

Marc VDS was one of the other options available to you earlier in the summer. They also offer a path to MotoGP but was the main stumbling block that they wouldn’t guarantee a move to MotoGP like Aprilia did?
That was the long and short of it. It was one of the most successful teams in Moto2. A great team. You can’t argue with that. I was lucky to have a lot of options inside the Moto2 class. We’ve done quite a good job. Marc VDS comes to mind as one of the top teams but my goal is to keep improving and get into MotoGP. I felt welcome in Aprilia, like Gresini wanted me and I still feel like that. VDS know they have a championship winning bike and team but there was no guarantee that I’d be in MotoGP if I won there.

Do you nnow the team you’ll work with in Gresini and will you take anyone with you?
I’d say it’s probably slotting into that team as it is now. I’m not too sure exactly but I’ll be working with the team there. The test team I’m not quite sure how that’s going to work. I think they’re happy with their guys, they believe in them. To be fair Simeon in the last few races hasn’t been so good but won a race this year and was good. I’m not going to go there and say anything against anyone that’s there. They believe in them and I’m going there thinking the same. I brought my crew chief here from Supersport but it wasn’t really on the cards. Sometimes it’s good to change. They’re happy with their people. I respect them so if they believe in them then that means they’re good enough to do the job. They’ve got a big enough motivation to fight for the championship. I met Federal Oil in Misano. They seem really keen and happy to push for it. They really want it. I really want it.

You also have the security of three year deal and can plan ahead for the first time in a long time for you.
It’s really good. The last two years have been a little tough for me with a few contract issues coming from World Supersport. Moto2 wasn’t so bad but the next few years will be good for me. It brings me that security and it’s going up a level. Sometimes a little charge and little reset is good. I hope I can prove that and come out fighting from the first race next year. I can’t wait to jump on a MotoGP bike. Obviously I’ve been on a 600 for a while. I’ll need to change my style a bit and learn but that’s a good thing. If I get up to speed quick and help to develop the bike, there’s no pressure from their side. They’ve said we don’t expect you to jump on this bike and break the lap record. It’s three years for a reason.

It wasn’t a bad week for the Lowes brothers with a MotoGP contract announced for you and Alex being confirmed at Yamaha in World Superbikes.
It’s mega. We’re really close and I’m moving back in with him next week. We can train together over the off-season. I rented a place but I don’t need it now. He’s had a tough two years, the team has done good by him. This year he’s had a well-known team-mate. The bike has looked good in BSB and the Suzuka 8 Hour. Maybe people were surprised with who got the deal. I think he’ll prove from the first round next year that he deserves that ride. 2013 we both won together. Of course it’s a big ask with him coming off his year and me coming off mine to do it again but it’s what we’ll be working towards over the winter. It’d be incredible if we do it. We always aim high and that’s what we always do.

Steve English

By Steve English