Alex Lowes has said he feels like Yamaha made a step forward with the YZF-R1 during this week’s Jerez test, something the Brit says will be essential if they are to continue the improvement seen last year.
The PATA Yamaha squad made clear progress in 2018 with both riders regularly challenging for the rostrum and both riders clinched their alusive first WorldSBK victories, but Lowes has warned that they need to keep moving forwards if they are to continue challenging at the front given the new machinery introduced by Ducati and Kawasaki for the upcoming season.
“Every year the goalposts move,” Lowes said. “Obviously Kawasaki were in front of us anyway but Ducati have come straight in with a new bike and are stepping in front, so we have to try and improve the bike somehow!
“We need to improve our electronics so that’s one of the areas I focused on during the test, then we have a new swing arm as we need to work on corner exit as that’s where we are losing the time.
“We need to be more consistent everywhere, because we saw this year how strong it was at some tracks, where to be honest, I believe we had a better bike than other people and that’s why we ended up winning, but the next weekend we’d be battling with eachother for eighth!”
Lowes finished the test second quickest overall, just 0.6 seconds behind four-time champion Jonathan Rea, making significant progress on the second day after trying the new swing arm from Yamaha.
“The new swingarm is a step in the right direction for corner exit, but initially I couldn’t enter the corner as well as I wanted. Once we tuned the bike and changed the geometry to suit the new swingarm we were able to get the same performance as the old one and there’s some more predictability on the exit of the corner. We still need to work on improving the corner exit and keeping the front wheel down because we didn't improve that today.
“Today I was quite competitive and I was able to set fast time on used tyres. You never know in racing but where the balance of the bike is now seems to have a bigger window to work in. That was a problem this year for us where we couldn't make big adjustments to bike if we were struggling. If we have a bigger window it'll help us be more competitive at more tracks. It's about finding some confidence and making little steps forward because those little steps all add up in racing.”
However, while the new swing arm was a step in the right direction, there was just one part available for the four Yamaha riders on the grid, with the GRT team stepping up with Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese in a second supported Yamaha effort for 2019.
With this, Lowes has warned that the level of support needs to remain the same if Yamaha expect to be fighting at the front.
“When you’re a step behind the other guys but nearly on the back of them, just about being competitive all the time, you really want to have more resources and more people in the garage to make the next step,” he said. “It’s quite clear we’ve gone the opposite way, but hopefully it doesn’t turn out like that and we can keep the support and have all bikes at the front. It’s good for personal motivation, because you want to be the top Yamaha but I think Yamaha themselves need to somewhere along the line invest more, obviously, because you can’t have the same investment for two teams as you did for one and to try and improve the package for all of us.”